With attention focused on Florida's effort to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls, another procedure continues as well: the purging of convicted felons from the rolls. Under Florida law, a convicted felon loses his or her right to vote and must petition the governor and state Cabinet for the restoration of civil rights, a process that can take up to seven years.
A Times/Herald analysis of four months' worth of data from the state Division of Elections shows that 6,934 people were removed from the rolls in the first four months of 2012 following felony convictions, and that Democrats were three times more likely to be removed than Republicans.
Of that total, 3,550 or 51 percent were registered as Democrats, and 1,206 or 17 percent were registered as Republicans. Another 1,614, or 23 percent, were registered with no party affiliation.
Here's the racial breakdown of felons removed from the voter database in 2012: Whites accounted for 3,018 or 44 percent, and blacks accounted for 2,956 or 42 percent. Hispanics accounted for 608 or 9 percent.
The five zip codes that accounted for the largest number of civil rights revocations were in Jacksonville and Tampa. Jacksonville, the state's largest city, had the most purged felons (928). Tampa had 797, Miami 367, Orlando 222, and St. Petersburg 174.
"Obviously, we're not targeting demographic groups," said Chris Cate, a spokesman for the Division of Elections. "The only category we're concerned about is, are they ineligible? If they're ineligible, they need to be removed."
While the purging process might be color- and party-blind, the results highlight the fact that the justice system might not be. About half of Florida's prison population is black in a state that's 14 percent African American -- who are overwhelmingly Democratic voters as well.
So any voter purge of felons is bound to disproportionately affect African Americans and Democrats.
-- Steve Bousquet