Florida felons seek restoration of civil rights

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Nearly 100 felons in Florida asked for clemency Wednesday seeking civil rights restoration. A heavy backlog in the system has protesters crying foul and calling for the state to go back to the old system.

Robert Mallan's appeal to the executive clemency board didn't go the way he wanted.

Mallan was convicted of kidnapping a 10-year-old boy in Tampa. He's been out of jail since 1991, but his civil rights haven't been restored.

"It looms over you," Mallan said. "Sometimes your past, you have to explain certain situations."

Former Gov. Charlie Crist established the automatic restoration of civil rights for former felons. Gov. Rick Scott and the cabinet pulled the plug on the program immediately after taking office.

Human Rights advocate Mark Schlackman said the difference in numbers is startling.

"Charlie Crist's administration granted more than 150,000 civil rights restorations for ex-felons," Schlackman said. "During the current administration, that number is closer to 1,200."

While felons were looking to get their voting rights back, protesters said the state's clemency policy is a form of voter suppression.

Ex-offender and voting rights advocate Lashanna Tyson traveled with a group from Orlando to speak out against the policy and backlog of people looking for restoration.

"This is voter suppression in the absolute worst way." Tyson said. "You are disenfranchising 2 million people to control the vote."

After the clemency meeting, the governor was asked about automatic restoration.

"What I think about when you hear these cases today is I think about the victims," Scott said. "I think about what happened to them."

Florida's prison population demographics suggest that many of the people in the backlog are minorities.

The ACLU of Florida is sending out a questionnaire to state cabinet candidates, asking their thoughts on the automatic restoration of civil rights. The group said it will publish the responses and non-responses.