On June 14, Erwin Jones, who served five years for a felony conviction, stood before Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet, sitting as the Executive Clemency Board, in Tallahassee, Florida to get back his right to vote, sit on a jury, or run for public office. Instead, he was asked by a white state official how many different mothers do his kids have, according to Florida Phoenix.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked Jones, “How many different mothers to those children [there are]?” This question was obviously inappropriate and had nothing to do with Jones’ ability to vote. Another person who was seeking clemency was asked if he attended church or not.
Richard Greenberg, a Tallahassee attorney told the Florida Phoenix, “I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else ask that question. It seems totally irrelevant,” Greenberg said.
Clearly, giving someone their right to vote is political and Patronis is running for reelection. Florida Phoenix reports, “An estimated 1.7 million people cannot vote in Florida, and more than one in five of those people are African-American.” In addition, “Florida is one of only four states where former felons lose the right to vote permanently and have only the option of the opaque clemency process to get their rights restored.”
Sounds like Patronis is afraid the people he is trying to disenfranchise will be granted the right to vote. In November, voters will be allowed to vote for Amendment 4 to the state Constitution, which would automatically give voting rights to felons, except those who have committed homicide or a felony sexual offense.