6 KPVI By GARY FINEOUT Associated Press
April 25, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — With time running out, a federal appeals court late Wednesday sided with Florida in an escalating battle over the state’s process for restoring voting rights for former prisoners.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker had given Florida until Thursday to create a new process after ruling in February that the state’s current system is unconstitutional and arbitrary, with decisions possibly swayed by politics and racial factors.
But a three judge panel of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Walker’s ruling while it considers an appeal from Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida Republican officials.
The decision by the court came less than two hours before Scott and GOP officials were scheduled to hold an extraordinary late-night meeting of the state’s clemency board where they were poised to adopt new rules. The meeting was scrapped after the appeals court sided with Florida in a split decision.
Florida’s clash over voting rights comes as Scott campaigns for the U.S. Senate seat of Democrat Bill Nelson in a state where as many as 1.5 million felons remain disenfranchised by the state’s ban that is included in Florida’s constitution.