JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - There’s an effort underway in the Florida Legislature that would streamline the process for felons to win back their rights to vote and own guns.
It’s against the law in the state for anyone found guilty of a felony to vote or own a firearm – unless the clemency board restores their civil rights, they're pardoned or the conviction is expunged.
That would change with the passage of a measure proposed in the Florida House, dubbed House Bill 903, which would give circuit and county judges a say on whether to reinstate a felon’s rights.
Currently, there are more than 1.6 million disenfranchised voters in Florida, the highest total nationwide, according to the nonpartisan research website ProCon.org.
State Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, filed the unnamed bill Dec. 6. It would allow felons who have served their time and paid any related fines to make cases for their rights to be restored.
Under the bill, felons would be able to petition the court once a year. Prosecutors could challenge those efforts, with the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence supporting their case.
In a post on his professional Facebook page -- Cord Byrd, the Florida Gun Lawyer -- the freshman lawmaker stated that on average, felons wait over 9 years for restoration of rights.
Such cases are heard by the Office of Executive Clemency, a four-member panel led by Gov. Rick Scott.
"Over 22,000 applications are pending, with only a few hundred being processed each year. Clearly the system is broken," wrote Byrd.
Byrd could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.
Still, there are concerns that the legislation could flood the court system, creating a logjam of petitions.
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