07/27/18: Voting Issues For Students And Felons, Plus: Another Stand Your Ground Case

Jul 27, 2018

Early voting can proceed at Florida’s college and university campuses.

That ruling came down from a federal judge this week in a blow to Governor Rick Scott’s administration.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker says Scott’s elections officials showed “a stark pattern of discrimination” in blocking early voting on campus.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner must report back to the judge by Friday, confirming that all 67 Florida counties can use campus buildings for early voting this fall.

In his ruling the judge noted the growing popularity of early voting in the nation's third-largest state, and also that nearly 830,000 students are enrolled at state colleges and universities.

Young voters are registering to vote in large numbers across the state leading into the primary election, raising the question of how the ruling impact the youth vote.

We began The Florida Roundup with a closer look.

Patti Brigham is President of the League of Women Voters of Florida, one of the groups who brought the lawsuit challenging the campus early voting ban. She joined us from Orlando.

Judicial Panel Considers Voting Rights Of Felons

Under a Florida process scrutinized Wednesday by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Yraida  Guanipa is one of hundreds of thousands of felons waiting to have their voting rights restored.

Guanipa is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Florida Board of Executive Clemency’s process for restoring the right to vote to felons like her who’ve completed their sentences and paid restitution.

Gov. Rick Scott, aided by Attorney General Pam Bondi, initiated the revamped process shortly after taking office in 2011.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs are taking a novel approach to the case. They maintain that Florida’s discretionary process violates the First Amendment, despite a dearth of cases anywhere in the country supporting that argument.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker found that the state’s arbitrary process violates the First Amendment and ordered the clemency board — made up of Scott and the state Cabinet — to come up with a set of “specific, neutral criteria” upon which to base their decisions.

But that victory was short-lived, when a separate three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit in April blocked a Walker order that would have required state officials to quickly overhaul Florida’s process of restoring felons’ rights. That panel decided 2-1 that “binding precedent” gives the governor “broad discretion to grant and deny clemency, even when the applicable regime lacks any standards.”

The April ruling, however, did not end the state’s appeal of Walker’s ruling that the current restoration process is unconstitutional, prompting Wednesday’s hearing.

But Gayles seemed bothered that Florida’s system puts it in a small class, joined only by Iowa and Kentucky.

The state requires felons to wait five or seven years to apply for rights restoration — and years after that to complete the process. Since the process went into effect in 2011, the clemency board has restored rights to about 3,000 of the 30,000 felons who’ve applied, compared to more than 155,000 whose rights were restored under former Gov. Charlie Crist and about 70,000 who regained their voting rights under Crist’s predecessor, Jeb Bush.

Brigham added her insights to the case.

Another Shooting Death, Another ‘Stand Your Ground’ Defense

There was another shooting death in Florida this week involving the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground defense.

A Florida civil rights attorney best known for representing the family of Trayvon Martin said this week that prosecutors should not apply Florida's Stand Your Ground law in a recent shooting death near Clearwater.

This case has brought the controversial law back to the forefront once again.

Attorney Ben Crump said State Attorney Bernie McCabe should not allow Michael Drejka to avoid murder charges for shooting and killing Markeis McGlockton last week after a confrontation at a Clearwater convenience store.

“This follows a long line of these alleged Stand Your Ground murders where the individual is the initial aggressor and then kills the unarmed black person and claims it’s self defense,” said Crump.

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office investigators said the confrontation between the men met the criteria for a Stand Your Ground defense, so they couldn’t make an arrest, even though someone was shot and killed.

Crump said prosecutors should not accept that determination, especially because the victim was black and the shooter was white.

Crump, who is representing McGlockton's family, said the death was similar to Martin, a black teen who was killed by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Volusia County in 2012.  

Florida passed the nation’s first Stand Your Ground law in 2005, which expanded on when and where a citizen can use deadly force against another. Put another way, you can now legally shoot someone in a public space, if it’s found you had a "reasonable" fear for your own safety.

As this debate plays out over the latest controversial Stand Your Ground case, at the same time students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are barnstorming the state and the country, working to register young people to vet and get more involved in politics and in particular issues like gun violence.

Related: Parkland Students Rally At The Jacksonville Landing On The 'Road To Change'

The survivors of the mass shooting at the high school in Parkland have become the face of the national “March For Our Lives” movement calling for gun reform.

We welcomed Ryan Servaites, he’s an incoming sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who lost several friends in the mass shooting along with Dan Sweeney, a reporter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel who has been covering the Stand Your Ground case.

They discussed Stand Your Ground, gun violence and the March For Our Lives movement that came about as a result of the February 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting by a student at the school that claimed 17 lives.