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Felony conviction bars activist from running for office

In Florida, those convicted of a felony face serious penalties, often including prison time and probation. But a conviction on felony charges carries other far reaching consequences, including loss of the right to vote. A man who attempted to run for a position on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission recently found this out the hard way.

The man was convicted in 2001 of third degree grand theft. He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay restitution.

The man is now a community activist and often speaks up at city commission hearings. This year, he decided to seek a seat on the commission for himself, in an upcoming special election. But the Supervisor of Elections for Broward County concluded he had never had his voting rights restored after his conviction, and ordered his name removed from the rolls of eligible voters. Because Florida law requires election candidates to be registered voters, he is also unable to run for the commission seat.

Had the man applied sooner to have his voting rights restored, he might still be a candidate. He claims he made an application through his probation officer for restoration of his voting rights in 2003 or 2004, but the state says there is no record he made such a request. The problem now is that by the time he applied in 2011, the rules had changed. A former felon must now have gone five years without any convictions before voting rights are restored. The man in this case had a misdemeanor conviction for disorderly intoxication in 2008.

The man plans to appeal the decision to remove him from the voter rolls to the Board of Clemency. The case illustrates one of the lesser known but serious consequences of a felony conviction.

Source: Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinal, "Would-be Fort Lauderdale commission candidate loses voting rights," Larry Barszewski, Nov. 5, 2012

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