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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

We understand that people forfeit some of their rights when they break the law. It’s just, and it’s part of the due punishment our justice system provides.

However, we were left scratching our heads Wednesday, when Florida’s state clemency board made it harder for nonviolent felons to regain those rights upon release from prison.

Just four years ago, former Gov. Charlie Crist saw a problem with the massive delays in restoring the rights to vote, run for public office, sit on a jury or hold specific occupational licenses.

He granted these felons immediate restoration of their rights — and by “immediate,” we mean it would take months or years for the paperwork to work its way through Florida bureaucracy.

Gov. Rick Scott sees things differently, as does Attorney General Pam Bondi.

They, along with other members of the board, decided people who have served their time and followed court orders would have an additional sentence tacked on to jail time and restitution: five years of revoked rights.

That’s five years before they can even begin jumping through hoops to get the rights back. It’s five years before people who normal society has a vested interest in re-assimilating can again start feeling like a normal citizen.

We fail to understand the board’s reasoning for this change in policy.

In fact, with his vague talk and secrecy surrounding the decision, we suspect the governor himself doesn’t have a decent reason for it.

There has been talk that the members of the board simply wanted to pull strings to ensure a disproportionately black and Democrat voting block was eliminated from the upcoming elections. The Miami Herald even went as far as to call the policy change a return to Jim Crow laws, stating that the state has “gone back a century.”

Whether that’s true and whether people agree with the board’s decision have yet to be seen, but we are alarmed by the secrecy that surrounded the change.

Meeting to vote on a proposal made public only at the beginning of the same meeting doesn’t sound like the Florida’s fabled “Government in the Sunshine” to us.

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Just the opposite: It sounds like shady business.

We hoped the board members would understand the idea of a deliberate government and at least give the opposition time to gather its thoughts and speak on a given issue.

Instead, the governor and his ilk are using the  finesse of a steamroller and the speed of a jet to reshape the state to fit their vision.

When Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam voiced his concerns —  albeit weakly —  over the speed at which the board was moving, it should have sent up red flags. His objection and near-immediate coalescence speaks volumes about Gov. Scott’s modus operandi.

Even if Floridians haven’t noticed it yet, our governor is working to get what he likes, not what the people need or want.

And that’s a scary reality.

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