Wednesday, July 21, 2004
With apologies to Public Enemy: "Equal Protection" is a joke. Dispiriting news from Florida (via Suburban Guerrilla):
A federal appeals court on Tuesday delayed indefinitely a long-awaited Miami trial to decide whether more than 600,000 former felons in Florida could have their voting rights automatically restored.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta agreed to reconsider an earlier appellate panel's order to hold the trial on Florida's 136-year-old law that bars felons from voting.
The ruling disappointed advocates for ex-felons who say the law is racially discriminatory because blacks comprise a disproportionate number of the former convicts.
The decision marked another turning point in the class-action case, which was filed weeks before Florida's divisive 2000 presidential election ended with George W. Bush winning the state -- and the White House -- by only 537 votes over Al Gore.
The ruling also means many ex-felons, who could make the difference in a tight race, will miss out on a chance to vote in another presidential election.
Florida is one of six states that prohibit felons from voting after they've served their time, unless the ex-convicts regain that right by applying to the Clemency Board.
Gov. Jeb Bush's office and lawyers for the state praised the decision as a big boost for their side . . . .
The Atlanta court's ruling follows the state's decision this month to scrap a flawed database to remove felons from the voter rolls after media reports revealed the list failed to capture most ex-convicts who classified themselves as Hispanic.
State election officials were already under siege after The Herald reported that the ''purge'' list included people -- many of them black Democrats -- who have already had their voting rights restored.
Now the 12-member Atlanta appellate court will have to decide whether there are legal grounds to allow the Miami trial to go forward to redress the ex-felons' complaints. The rehearing has not been scheduled yet. At the earliest, it would be held in October, one month before the presidential election, but it could also be pushed back until next year.