Florida push to restore felons' voting rights hits budget snag

TALLAHASSEE — About a year after Gov. Charlie Crist successfully pushed to streamline the process to restore the civil rights for former felons, the effort appears to be working; 90,000 restoration cases have been processed in six months. But the momentum probably won't last for long because of parole commission budget cuts.

Commission Director Monica David said that her agency bore the biggest proportional cut— 20 percent — of any agency this year as part of the $5 billion in state budget cuts.

The commission's budget was sliced from $10.2 million to $8.1 million and it will have to cut its 148-member staff by 24 positions — nine of whom handle clemency. Plus, she said, the agency can't afford to pay its rent anymore and will have to move.

State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink noted that the governor and Cabinet are the only advocates for the parole commission and that they ''ought to discuss some strategies'' to keep the commission moving along.

Florida is one of only a handful of states that deny former felons the right to vote after their prison and parole sentences have been served. The clemency process had for years been bound in red tape and paperwork until Crist pushed for the paperwork streamlining to more quickly process right-to-vote cases for many nonviolent felons.

Read the full story at