May 13, 2008

Rights Restoration Process Still Too Bureaucratic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (786) 363-2737 or media@aclufl.org

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, the ACLU of Florida and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition launched an online search tool that will enable people with past felony convictions in Florida to search state records and find out if their civil rights, including their voting rights, have been restored. The online search tool is available on both web sites: www.restorerights.org and www.aclufl.org.

"It is imperative that the State makes the process of rights restoration automatic and paperwork free. But, until that time, there needs to be an easy way for Floridians with past felony convictions to determine their status," said Muslima Lewis, Director of the ACLU of Florida's Racial Justice and Voting Rights Projects, and FRRC member. "That's precisely what we've done with this tool. This is a simple way to provide important civil rights restoration information to Florida citizens."

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition urged the State to make this type of search tool available on the Florida Parole Commission Web site. Yet, the State has not implemented this effective and low-cost means of communicating important civil rights restoration information to Florida citizens.
 
The search tool not only allows individuals to search State clemency records, but it also enables them to contact the Office of Executive Clemency to request a certificate of civil right restoration if they find that their rights have been restored. This is essential because many people have had their civil rights restored but do not even know it. "Since Florida's restoration of civil rights process is not automatic, people must be located by the OEC so they can receive notice of restoration of civil rights in the form of a certificate of civil rights restoration," said Lewis. "Many people never receive notice that their civil rights have been restored because they have moved or because the State's records are inaccurate or incomplete."

The Web site also informs people whose civil rights have been restored how they can register to vote. Lewis noted that in December 2007 the FRRC had asked the Governor to direct the OEC to include a voter registration application when it mails out certificates of civil rights restoration. The State has not implemented this suggestion. Since December 2007, tens of thousands of individuals have had their civil rights restored, and the State should facilitate them becoming full voting citizens.

"The FRRC is providing important information that the state of Florida should provide to citizens who are newly eligible to register to vote," said Marian Bacon White, President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and President of the 11th Episcopal District Lay Organization of the AME Church. "The state of Florida's failure to implement meaningful, yet low cost, initiatives to expedite the process of getting people back on the voter rolls raises questions about how committed the State really is to implementing the clemency reforms adopted last year."

For information about the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, or to join us, call toll free at: (877) 826-8682 or (877) U-COUNT-2, or visit www.restorerights.org.

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