Marissa Alexander advocates to reinstate voting rights for ex-felons

Judge rules way Florida restores voting rights to ex-felons is wrong

By Joy Purdy - 5:30, 6:30 & 11 p.m. anchor, Ethan Calloway - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The way Florida restores voting rights to ex-felons is wrong -- that's the ruling from a federal judge.

And now that judge is telling Gov. Rick Scott to change the process.

News4Jax spoke Friday night with ex-felon Marissa Alexander, who's become an advocate for this controversial topic.

"If they're already working and paying taxes, why not? I mean, it's taxation without representation," Alexander said.

Alexander told News4Jax it just makes sense. If a person, convicted of a crime, has done their time and is now contributing to society, she said, why shouldn't they be allowed to vote?

"To see people that I know personally, who are out, they own their own businesses. They're doing really well. They're established. They've overcome so many hurtles that a felony conviction imposes, and then them being able to have the right to vote, I think that's what we are, we're ... a democracy. Why not give them that right back?" Alexander said.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in a 43-page ruling, "To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials ... No standards guide the panel..."

The judge gave the state until Feb. 12 to respond, but Scott's office plans to fight the ruling, issuing a statement late Thursday saying, "...The governor believes that convicted felons should show that they can lead a life free of crime and be accountable to their victims and our communities..."

Alexander has become passionate about this voter movement, particularly since she served prison time for firing a gunshot in the direction of her estranged husband and his two children, arguing that he had been abusing her and had threatened to kill her.

Now a free woman, she points to the estimated 1 1/2 million others like her in Florida, who she says could make a difference at the polls.

"We could at least let the people who have already served out their sentence meet those guidelines, are already productive, be able to have the rights restored once they've completed everything," Alexander said.

This November, Floridians can weigh in on this topic, which will be on the November ballot -- a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically give ex-felons the right to vote, except for murderers or sex offenders.

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