On Thursday, a federal judge who was appointed by former President Barack Obama ruled that Florida has been violating former felons’ constitutional rights by denying them the right to vote once they have successfully completed their time in prison.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in his ruling that the First and Fourteenth Amendments had been violated by Florida’s process of requiring felons to wait five years and pay fees to have their rights restored.
“Florida strips the right to vote from every man and woman who commits a felony,” Walker wrote, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The most significant Trump reversals of Obama orders in 2017
The most significant Trump reversals of Obama orders in 2017
DEFERRED ACTION FOR CHILDHOOD ARRIVALS (DACA)
Signed in 2012, Obama’s executive order offering legal protections from deportation to children brought into the country by undocumented immigrant parents offered a legal respite for nearly 800,000 people. While it was not a permanent solution, many Republicans in Congress sided with Democrats in the view that children protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should ultimately be granted U.S. citizenship. But on Sept. 5, 2017, President Trump put that possibility in doubt. “Make no mistake, we are going to put the interest of AMERICAN CITIZENS FIRST!” Trump tweeted ahead of an announcement by his attorney general that he was rescinding Obama’s action. The matter now rests with Congress.
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
TRANSFER OF SURPLUS MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO LOCAL POLICE
In 2015, in the wake of what some viewed as the outsize police response to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., Obama issued an order banning the sale of surplus military equipment such as grenade launchers and armored vehicles to local police forces. On Aug. 28, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Trump was scrapping the restriction “to make it easier to protect yourselves and your communities.”
(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NORMALIZING RELATIONS WITH CUBA
Denouncing the Obama administration’s 2014 decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Trump announced on June 16, 2017, that he was putting travel and trade restrictions with the island nation back in place. “The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people — they only enrich the Cuban regime,” Trump said in a Florida speech.
(A vintage car drives past the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini)
THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
Trump has said he believes that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. His June 1, 2017, decision to walk away from the Paris climate agreement signed by his predecessor ultimately left the United States isolated as the only country in the world not onboard.
(REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo)
OFFSHORE AND ARCTIC OIL DRILLING
Making good on the long-held Republican slogan “Drill, baby, drill,” Trump overturned a 2016 Obama executive order banning oil drilling in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic.
“This is a great day for American workers and families,” Trump said at a signing ceremony on April 28, 2017. “And today we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs.”
(Susanne Miller/US Fish and Wildlife Service/Handout via Reuters)
Obama’s rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet — aka net neutrality — were enshrined in 2015 with a vote from the Federal Communications Commission. But new FCC commissioners are appointed by whichever president is serving, and when Trump took office he installed new leadership, which voted on Dec. 14 to scrap the policy, opening up the internet to what critics fear will result in a tiered system of information and entertainment.
REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
THE CLEAN WATER RULE
On Feb. 28, 2017, President Trump began his assault on Obama’s executive order that expanded federal oversight of pollution in the nation’s rivers, streams and lakes. Trump’s first step was to order the EPA to “review and reconsider” the restrictions. Then, in June, the administration officially rolled back the environmental protections for over half of the nation’s tributaries.
(Yellow mine waste water is seen at the entrance to the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colorado, in this picture released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) taken August 5, 2015. REUTERS/EPA/Handout/File Photo)
CAPS ON GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AT POWER PLANTS
Keeping a campaign promise to the coal industry, Trump signed an executive order on March 28, 2017, intended to begin dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which required power plants to reduce carbon emissions. Trump’s new “Energy Independence” order also reversed a ban on coal leasing on federal lands and loosened restrictions on methane emissions. Several states immediately filed a lawsuit against the administration, claiming the move endangered the health of citizens.
(The coal-fired Castle Gate Power Plant is pictured outside Helper, Utah November 27, 2012. REUTERS/George Frey)
SCOPE OF NATIONAL MONUMENTS
Applauded by industry and decried by environmentalists, Trump signed an executive order on April 26, 2017, that swept away Obama’s use of the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect federal lands from oil drilling, mining and other development. “Today we’re putting the states back in charge,” he said at the signing. In December, the administration announced it would reduce the size of the Obama-created Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, and the Bill Clinton-designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 50 percent.
(The moon glows over Indian Creek in the northern portion of Bears Ears National Monument, Utah, U.S., October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen)
BATHROOM PROTECTIONS FOR TRANSGENDER STUDENTS
One month into his term, Trump rescinded an Obama directive that allowed students to use school bathrooms that matched their self-identified gender. Trump’s rationale for the reversal was that states, rather than the federal government, should decide how to handle the question.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten decried the move, telling the Associated Press that it “tells trans kids that it’s OK with the Trump administration and the Department of Education for them to be abused and harassed at school for being trans.”
“To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s governor has absolute veto authority. No standards guide the panel. Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration… The question now is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It does not.”
Under the current system, over 10,000 former felons are still waiting for their rights to be restored, with less than 100 cases being handled each time Gov. Rick Scott‘s cabinet deliberates on them. And since that deliberation only happens four times a year, that backlog is only growing.
Scott’s administration decried the ruling for breaking with tradition.
“The discretion of the clemency board over the restoration of felons’ rights in Florida has been in place for decades and overseen by multiple governors,” Scott’s communications director, John Tupps, told Tampa Bay. “The process is outlined in Florida’s Constitution, and today’s ruling departs from precedent set by the United States Supreme Court.”
However, that’s not entirely accurate. The system put in place in 2007 by former governor Charlie Crist, who is currently a member of Congress, allowed felons who were not convicted of murder or of sex offenses to have their rights restored without having to go through the arduous hearing process. But Scott changed the policy in 2011 to make felons wait.
Now, Walker has imposed a Feb. 12 deadline for the government to come up with a solution to this unconstitutional practice.