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Florida Eases Rules That Prevent Felons From Casting Ballots

December 10, 2004|From Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida changed the rules Thursday to make it easier for convicted felons who have done their time to regain the right to vote and other civil rights.

Florida is one of only a few states that do not automatically restore most rights when felons have served their time. Instead, those who have committed certain crimes must go before the state clemency board for a hearing, and the process can take years.

More than 4,000 people are waiting for a hearing, and only about 200 get one each year because the board meets only four times a year.

Civil rights groups have argued that the process is too arduous and makes it hard for ex-convicts to get back into society.

On Thursday, Gov. Jeb Bush and the Board of Clemency reduced the number of offenses that require felons to go through hearings, and waived the hearing process for people who go several years without committing a new crime.

Bush said the new rules probably would reduce the backlog by about a third.

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