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Florida’s ban on felons voting ruled unconstitutional by judge

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Florida’s policy of banning felons from voting until they petition the government is unconstitutional and forces them to “kowtow” to the whim of state politicians, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed on behalf of nine ex-felons denied the right to vote.

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Almost all states deny incarcerated criminals the right to vote, but Florida, an often crucial state in presidential elections, is one of only four to not automatically restore voting rights after felons have completed their sentences.

“In Florida elected, partisan officials have extraordinary authority to grant or withhold the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people without any constraints, guidelines or standards,” U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in a 43-page decision, saying he would rule later on how the state should fix the system.

Governor Rick Scott’s communication director, John Tupps, said in a statement that Florida’s process for restoring voting rights to felons had been in place for decades and that Walker’s ruling broke with U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

“The governor believes that convicted felons should show that they can lead a life free of crime and be accountable to their victims and our communities,” Tupps said, adding that the office would defend it in court.

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The Fair Elections Legal Network, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs, could not be reached by Reuters for comment.

“Today a federal court said what so many Floridians have known for so long — that the state’s arbitrary restoration process, which forces former felons to beg for their right to vote, violates the oldest and most basic principles of our democracy,” Jon Sherman, senior counsel for the organization, told local media.

In his ruling, Walker said the state subjected felons to a lengthy and arbitrary process to get their voting rights back.

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“To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s governor has absolute veto authority,” he wrote.

The judge cited one clemency hearing at which the Republican governor announced: “We can do whatever we want,” and another where Scott restored a felon’s rights moments after the man said he voted illegally for him.

Last month the Florida elections officials approved inclusion on the November ballot a measure that would restore voting rights to people who had completed their sentences, unless they had been convicted of murder or a serious sex offense.

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(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Facebook bans far-right website from pro-Trump advertising after they try to skirt transparency rules

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On Thursday, NBC News reported that Facebook has banned the Epoch Times from placing political advertisements, after the right-wing website tried to conceal its multimillion-dollar dark money streams and get around the social network's political advertising transparency rules in its propaganda supporting President Donald Trump.

The Epoch Times had tried to skirt rules by running ads under puppet names like "Honest Paper" and "Pure American Journalism," confusing users about who was really behind the ads.

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GOP leaders are pressuring Kansas Republican to resign from Congress immediately: report

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On Thursday, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Republicans in Kansas and Washington are pressuring Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS) to step down after just eight months in office.

It is currently unclear why they are calling for his resignation.

Watkins has thus far given no indications he will leave office. His spokesman Jim Joice stated that he has no plans to resign, and disputed the idea that Republican officials are pressuring him to do so, but acknowledged there have been conversations around the topic.

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LAX customs officer calls journalist ‘fake news’ and demands to know if he works for CNN or MSNBC: report

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On Thursday, Empire Magazine's James Dyer stated in a Twitter thread that he was stopped by a customs official while arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, aggressively interrogated about his journalistic career, and accused of being "fake news":

Wow. Just... wow. Just went through LAX immigration. Presented my journalist visa and was stopped by the CBP agent and accused of being part of the ‘fake news media’.

— James Dyer (@jamescdyer) August 22, 2019

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