Florida Democrats call for end of black voter disenfranchisement

Elections officials taking coronavirus precautions for Florida primary voting

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Riding the wave of racial justice protests, Florida Democrats are calling for an end to the disenfranchisement of black Floridians ahead of the 2020 election.

Felons’ voting rights and the state’s clemency process are at the center of their demands.

When the state blocked felons from registering to vote until they paid all financial obligations related to their sentence, a UF professor testified it would prevent almost nine out of ten blacks with felony convictions from voting.

“This administration apparently intends to let that system remain,” said Marsha Ellison with the NCAAP.

A recent federal ruling effectively quashed the financial requirements, but Governor Ron DeSantis plans to appeal.

Florida Democrats like State Representative Tracie Davis are calling on him to reconsider.

“It's past time that our government shows us that black lives really matter and do that by including them in the democratic process without disproportionate discrimination,” said Davis.

If the ruling in the felons voting case stands, it’s estimated hundreds of thousands of felons would be able to register for the 2020 election.

Democrats also want DeSantis to revamp the state’s clemency process, which currently has a waiting list of 17,000.

“Restoration of rights for black Floridians is the lowest in half a century. The Governor can change these rules. Do the right thing,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried.

The clemency board hasn’t met since 2019.

The Governor’s Office told News4Jax it’s working to schedule a clemency meeting for July, but Fried asserts there are currently 600 cases before the clemency board that could be approved for rights restoration without a formal hearing.

Fried said that her calls for the Governor to allow the cases to go forward have fallen on deaf ears.

Democrats call the state’s disenfranchisement of black voters systemically racist and said the recent roadblocks are an attempt to preserve policies that date back to the Jim Crow era.

“Governor DeSantis and the clemency board must fix this shattered system that unfairly punishes black Floridians and denies them their constitutional rights,” said Davis.