Questionnaire sent to 2014 candidates asks for positions on issues related to Florida’s lifetime voting ban policy for people with past felony convictions; Policy has shut approximately 1.5 million out of our democracy, made Florida subject to human rights scrutiny

CONTACT:  ACLU of Florida Media Office,, (786) 363-2737

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida is sending a questionnaire to candidates for Florida Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of Agriculture and Chief Financial Officer regarding their positions on policies addressing Florida’s lifetime ban on voting rights for people with past felony convictions. The ACLU of Florida intends to publish candidates’ responses – and non-responses – to the questionnaire.

Florida’s lifetime disfranchisement policy, which dates back to the Civil War  era, has shut an estimated 1.54 million Floridians out of our democracy, accounting for roughly one fourth of the disfranchised population of the U.S. and over one fifth of the state’s voting-age African American population.

The offices for which the candidates are running for election or re-election constitute the Florida Board of Executive Clemency, the decision-making body that sets the policies for restoration of civil and voting rights for people who have had them revoked. The current Clemency Board is meeting in Tallahassee today, June 18th, 2014.

“The voting ban has become an international embarrassment for the people of Florida, and as candidates for Clemency Board positions, these are the people who are best positioned to fix that – though the ultimate fix to this problem requires an amendment to the Florida Constitution,” stated Dr. Joyce Hamilton Henry, Director of Advocacy for the ACLU of Florida. “We look forward to the responses from the candidates so Floridians can fairly assess how the people who wish to lead the state will address this critical issue.”

In March, Dr. Hamilton Henry travelled to Geneva to testify about Florida’s voting ban before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its review of the United States’ compliance the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty the US ratified in 1992. In its report issued weeks later, the Committee castigated the United States for several human rights shortcomings, including Florida’s lifetime voting ban.

“The fact that one and a half million Floridians have been shut out of our democracy is the biggest voting rights crisis facing our state,” stated ACLU of Florida Director of Public Policy, Michelle Richardson. “The people of Florida deserve to know how the people running for Governor and cabinet positions, who would have the power to take action to address this crisis, plan to do so.”

The ACLU of Florida is sending the questionnaire to candidates who have reported a total of at least $2,500 in campaign contributions to the Florida Division of Elections in reports that were available as of June 17. Those candidates are:

Governor:  Yinka Adeshina (REP); Rubin Anderson (NPA); Charlie Crist (DEM); Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder (REP); Kyle “K.C.” Gibson (NPA); Nan Rich (DEM); Rick Scott (REP); Adrian Wyllie (LPF).

Attorney General: Pam Bondi (REP); George Sheldon (DEM); Perry Thurston Jr.  (DEM); Bill Wohlsife (LPF).

Chief Financial Officer: Jeff Atwater (REP); William Rankin (DEM).

Commissioner of Agriculture: Thad Hamilton (DEM); Adam Putnam (REP).

The questionnaire consists of the following questions:

  1. Do you support the automatic restoration of voting rights for all former offenders upon their release from prison?  (If  “Yes,” please move to question 5, If “No,” question 2)
  2. Do you believe there are some offenses for which a former offender should qualify for automatic restoration of voting rights and others that should disqualify them from automatic rights restoration?  If so, explain how you would differentiate offenses.
  3. Do you support the restoration of civil and voting rights before a released offender completes all payments of financial legal obligations (court costs, public defender expenses) and restitution?
  4. Why or why not?
  5. If elected, will you vote to amend the Rules of Executive Clemency to allow more of the approximately 1.54 million Floridians who are permanently disfranchised due to a past felony conviction to regain their right to vote?
  6. Briefly describe how you would end the backlog of Floridians who are waiting to have their voting rights restored.
  7. Please provide any additional comments you have on the issue of rights restoration.

The results of the questionnaire will be used for voter education only. The ACLU of Florida does not endorse candidates for office.

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