ACLU Informs Clemency Board: Felon Disfranchisement Violates International Human Rights Agreement

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
January 24, 2013 12:42 pm

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In letter to Board of Executive Clemency, ACLU warns that Florida felon disfranchisement could cause “national embarrassment” during UN Human Rights Committee review

January 24, 2013

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MIAMI – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has asked the Human Rights Committee, an international body of human rights experts established by the United Nations to review states’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to include Florida’s restrictions on restoration of voting rights for individuals with a felony conviction in the committee’s upcoming review of the United States.

In a letter sent today to the members of the Florida Board of Executive Clemency – comprised of Governor Rick Scott and the members of his cabinet – the ACLU of Florida informed the board that Florida’s lifetime felon disfranchisement violates the United States’ obligations under the ICCPR.

In March of 2011, the Clemency Board passed new restrictions on the ability of individuals to have their rights restored after serving the terms of a felony conviction. The result of these new restrictions has been the near complete end of rights restoration in Florida. Between March 2011 and March 2012, only 94 people had their rights restored, as compared to 115,000 between April 2007 and June 2008, 24,375 in 2009 and 5,582 in 2010.

In a submission to the Human Rights Committee, the ACLU and co-signers asked the Committee to consider lifetime disfranchisement among the issues for review when assessing the United States’ compliance with the ICCPR this March.

From the letter sent to the Clemency Board:

“As you are no doubt aware, Florida’s disfranchisement rate remains the highest among the 50 states. As of 2010, Florida has disfranchised 1,541,602 citizens due to a felony conviction, or 10.42% of the voting age population. Florida disfranchises African American voters at more than twice the rate of non-African American voters. More than one in five Florida African Americans of voting age has been disfranchised.

“Florida’s record on felon disfranchisement has been singled out as one of the most restrictive in the nation. In 2006, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern that approximately five million U.S. citizens cannot vote due to a felony conviction, and that this practice has significant racial implications.


“In order to avoid our state’s all-too familiar role as a national embarrassment with regard to the protection of voting rights, we ask that you amend the Clemency Rules to comply with our human rights obligations. Otherwise, Florida’s dissonance with the rest of the nation on voting rights may now draw international attention when the Human Rights Committee reviews U.S. compliance with its ICCPR obligations later this year.”

The submission to the Human Rights Committee was co-authored by the ACLU of Florida with The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Project Vote, The National Congress of Black Women, Florida Consumer Action Network Foundation, Organize Now, Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment, and Dream Defenders.

A copy of the letter sent to the Board of Executive Clemency today is available here:

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