Friday, July 23, 2004

Eliminating Paperwork by Eliminating Voters 

Via our esteemed colleagues at Suburban Guerrilla, the latest from the state of Florida, where they'll try just about anything because -- who knows? -- they might not get caught:
Days after a Florida appeals court demanded that the state provide more help to felons who want their right to vote restored, Gov. Jeb Bush introduced a new policy that civil rights advocates say circumvents the will of the court and threatens to exclude tens of thousands of potential voters.

Last week, the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee unanimously ruled that state prison officials must follow the law and provide newly released felons the necessary paperwork and assistance to get their full civil rights back.

That would include a one-page application for a formal hearing before the Florida Clemency Board -- the only way an estimated 85 percent of felons will ever get their rights restored.

But instead of providing the application, Bush decided to scrap it altogether. On Wednesday, he announced that felons will now have to contact the Office of Executive Clemency when and if they want to apply for a hearing to have their rights restored.

Bush argues that the policy reduces paperwork and, therefore, provides the ease and assistance demanded by the court.

Civil rights advocates say the decision will disfranchise thousands of people in a state where more than 400,000 are already banned from voting.

''You have to hand it to the governor. It's a very clever legal tactic and even more clever propaganda,'' said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU in Florida. ``It's done under the guise of trying to simplify the process and eliminate paperwork, but it just shows his true character. It's completely disingenuous.''

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