FEDERAL JUDGE ORDERS FLORIDA TO MAKE VOTING RIGHTS CHANGES
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Florida to devise a new way to decide when and how former prisoners can get their voting rights restored, saying Gov. Rick Scott and state officials can no longer rely on “whims, passing emotions, or perceptions'' in that process. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker also blocked the state's current system of forcing most ex-felons to wait at least five years before they can ask to have their voting rights restored. The system was put in place back in 2011 at the urging of Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.Walker did not specify what rules the state should put in place but instead gave Scott and state officials _ who act as the state's clemency board _ until April 26 to come up with a new process. Florida was sued on behalf of ex-felons whose requests for voting rights were turned down. “This court is not the vote restoration czar,'' wrote Walker, who was appointed by President Barack Obama. “It does not pick and choose who may receive the right to vote and who may not. Nor does it write the rules and regulations for the executive clemency board.'' But he said the court possesses the established duty to “say what the law is.'' John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott, did not say if the governor's office would appeal Walker's decision. But Tupps defended the process now in place. “The governor continues to stand with victims of crime,'' said Tupps. “He believes that people who have been convicted of felony offenses including crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence, should demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime while being accountable to our communities.''