TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Attorney General Pam Bondi reiterated Thursday that the state will not back away in a legal battle about whether Florida’s process for restoring ex-felons’ voting rights is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker last month gave Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet until April 26 to revamp the process, which Walker ruled violates First Amendment and equal-protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Bondi’s office on Wednesday filed a notice of appeal at the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and asked for a stay of the order requiring a new process by April 26.
But Walker, in a sharply worded decision, quickly rejected the request for a stay, though he said the state can also take that issue to the appeals court.
On Thursday, Bondi criticized Walker’s rulings and defended the state’s authority to decide how to handle restoration of rights.
“We have been following the law,” she said. “We firmly believe that it is the law in the state of Florida. We plan on enforcing the laws. That’s what I do as the chief legal officer of the state of Florida. So, yes, we are appealing it. We will appeal it to the highest court.”
In the earlier rulings, Judge Walker said the current process is unconstitutional, in part, because it gives Scott and Cabinet members, serving as the state Board of Executive Clemency, “unfettered discretion” in deciding whether former felons should have their rights restored after completing sentences.
Under the current process, ex-felons must wait five or seven years after their sentences are complete to apply to have rights restored.
After applications are filed, the process can take years to complete.