Governor Jeb Bush responds to a court order mandating that Florida help felons complete the form to apply for executive clemency by eliminating the form entirely: Now felons will have to wait for letters from state clemency officials telling them whether they need to apply. Some felons might get their rights automatically restored, but thousands will have to apply and wait for a hearing. Bush wants the Department of Corrections to rely on an electronic notice from the Department of Corrections that an appeals court said last week was insufficient. The decision drew criticism from some civil rights advocates. "What the governor has decided to do is thumb his nose at the decision of the 1st District Court of Appeal," said Randall Berg, executive director of the Florida Justice Institute in Miami. "He's thrown up this complete bureaucratic hurdle to continually disenfranchise prisoners in the state of Florida." Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre said the change is intended to streamline the process. ...critics say felons are often transient and it's unlikely clemency officials will be able to reach them by mail for months or years after release. DiPietre said most felons do not have to have hearings; civil rights advocates say 85 percent must have hearings. A spokesman for the clemency office could not clarify the issue Thursday. "This will ensure that fewer people will know about the process or hear about the process," said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Between 400,000 and 700,000 felons in Florida haven't had their voting rights restored...Civil rights advocates have called on Bush to change the clemency rules to automatically restore voting rights to felons after serving their sentences. Bush said such changes would require amending the state Constitution. Given Florida used a constitutional ammendment last year to mandate building a monorail, I'd say it's time for a constitutional ammendment to restore the civil rights of hundreds of thousands of Floridians.


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