TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 5 (UPI) -- Florida officials decided Thursday to allow non-violent offenders to vote and run for public office as soon as they complete their sentences.
"I believe in appropriate punishment. I'm 'Chain Gang Charlie,'" Crist said. "I believe in justice. But punishment should never be confused with revenge. We should be able to find it in our hearts to forgive. Our Creator does."
Florida's policy has been controversial since the 2000 presidential election, when the U.S. Supreme Court gave the state -- and, in the process, the presidency -- to Republican candidate George W. Bush. Democrats charged that Republican officials wrongly purged thousands of black voters, claiming they were felons.
In the past, all convicted felons had to go through a clemency process that could take as long as four years to have their civil rights restored.