Legal Question in Constitutional Law in Georgia
If I were convicted of aggravated assault in 1992 in Georgia and served 3 years probation. I now reside in Jacksonville, Florida since 2003. I wanted to know if I'm eligible to vote again?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Don't even ask, and I won't tell.
The notion that states would deprive people of the right and privilege of voting because of a criminal record is astounding, unethical, unjust, unfair, and, unfortunately, all too common.
Florida appears to keep records of its own felons, and infamously uses them (when Republicans are in power) to purge them (or some like them) from their roles, all under the assumption that they will purge more potential Democrat votes than potential Republican votes, and that assumption is based on the assumption that certain races and ethnic groups are more likely to vote Democrat and are more over-represented on their purge lists. (That has to be the case, since criminal records do not indicate party affiliation.)
I'm not the authority on this, but here is a Wikipedia entry linking to several authorities, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Central_Voter_File; here is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement page, http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/content/getdoc/db14d686-2d6a-4452-8dc3-2894b837a14f/Voter-Information.aspx; here is an ABC News story on the rising purge list in Florida, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=121724#.UJR-B6RSQ2J; here is a fascinating Rolling Stone article on brazen and extremist voter-suppression efforts in Florida, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/florida-gop-takes-voter-supression-to-a-brazen-new-extreme-20120530; and here is a very recent story from The Palm Beach Post on the shenanigans going on to suppress the vote, http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/architect-of-felon-voter-purge-behind-floridas-new/nSp9t/.
Whatever you were convicted of in Georgia, Georgia made you pay what it considered the proper penalty. In my view, it would be outrageous for Florida to prevent you from voting because of it, since you were never accused, tried or convicted of it in Florida. Even if you had been convicted of it in Florida, it would be outrageous for Florida to prevent you from voting. Why? Not just because you already served the sentence, and this would add onto it. No, it is is because voting is what puts people in power to decide what should be a crime to begin with.
Suppose Democrats were in the overwhelming majority in Florida, and decided that being a Republican was a crime which would deny the right to vote to any Republican? We wouldn't stand for it. But we do the equivalent every day. I live in Maryland, where a person accused of murder was denied the right to be tried by a jury of his peers because I do not believe the death penalty is constitutionally permissible. So, I'm kicked off the jury, along with any other prospective juror who does not believe that the death penalty is lawful, and the poor guy gets tried only by people who think the death penalty is just fine and dandy. That's NOT a jury of his peers. That's a stacked jury.
Elected lawmakers decide what constitutes "aggravated assault". Elected lawmakers decide who can be denied the right to vote based on -- well, based on whatever they like. To deny the right to vote to anyone, solely because people that this person is being denied the right to vote for or against have so decreed, is un-American, un-sound, unethical, unjust, and unconscionable.
I'm not licensed to practice law in Florida, so I can't offer this as legal advice (nor would I do so on a public discussion board like this even if I was licensed), but I hope you will register (or attempt to register) to vote (though it may be too late for this Tuesday's election). I hope you hold your head high as an equal citizen, let *them* tell you if they are going to try to stop you, and if they do, contact your local ACLU to see about defending your rights (http://www.aclufl.org/).
In short, I do not know whether, under Florida law, you are eligible to vote. What I do know is that you should be.
If anyone in Florida dares stand in the way of your right to vote, as between you and an unjust Florida law, you should prevail, and if you prevail, justice will be done for many others in your situation.
I wish you the best, my friend. Stand firm. Any law that de-humanizes a human being should be challenged, and changed (so said a former Christian Ethics professor of mine, Dr. Henlee Barnette -- see http://www.christianethicstoday.com/cetart/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.main&ArtID=698). If you try to vote and are prevented from doing so, please, stand up for what is right, challenge it, and change it. That's how good laws are made.
I need you to vote!
We need you to vote!
Florida need you to vote!
You must vote, and if Florida stands in your way, you have my vote of confidence in you. Fight!
Whether you can vote in Florida is a question of Florida law, even though your criminal record is from Georgia. You should re-post your question under the law of Florida. It is much more likely to reach a lawyer who knows the answer that way.
Related Questions & Answers
If witness lie in court what can they be charged with? Asked 4/09/12, 10:54 am in United States Georgia Constitutional Law