NAACP: Felon Disenfranchisement Is About Race

President and CEO Benjamin Jealous says that Florida Gov. Rick Scott's policy making it more difficult for fomer criminals to cast ballots is an attempt to "turn back the clock."

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Benjamin Jealous (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

You can't vote while serving time for a felony, but what about when your sentence is over and you return to society? In most states, the right to cast a ballot is automatically returned to those have served their time. But under Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the automatic restoration policy has been reversed, the process can now take several years and, as a result, only 300 people have had their rights restored under his leadership (compared with more than 150,000 under former Gov. Charlie Christ), the Miami Herald reports.  

While Scott said last year that his reform effort "prioritizes public safety and creates incentives to avoid criminal activity," the NAACP says the move represents just one of the ways that Republicans have attempted to suppress the votes of blacks and minorities, and is spearheading a national campaign to spotlight felon disenfranchisement.  It was launched in Florida today.

The National Advancement for the Advancement of Colored People came to the Florida Capitol on Tuesday to launch a national campaign against policies that withhold voting rights from millions of people who have a felony conviction on their record.

With national NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous and Golden Globe-winning actor Charles Dutton headlining, the group tried to shine a spotlight on the the issue of "felony disenfranchisement."

"Voting is a right,” said Jealous, speaking from the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee. "In this state, the governor has decided to turn back the clock" ...

NAACP will be putting up billboards across the country with pictures of former felons who have been denied the right to vote, including celebrity spokespeople like Judge Greg Mathis and Dutton.

"I was released from prison in 1976 and I was only allowed to vote in 2007," said Dutton, who has starred in movies like Alien 3 and A Time to Kill.

The aim of the campaign, said Jealous, is to bring more public awareness to the issue of "felony disenfranchisement" and convince governors in states like Florida, Virginia, Iowa and Kentucky that they are they are on the wrong side of history.

Read more at the Miami Herald.

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