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New view on felons voting not just a ploy, Crist says

Published October 18, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said Tuesday his new support for automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-convicts isn't just a political ploy aimed at winning votes.

Florida's attorney general last week for the first time endorsed automatically giving felons the right to vote again once they have completed their sentences. His Democratic opponent, Rep. Jim Davis, has made automatic restoration of felon voting rights part of his platform throughout the campaign.

Until he announced the switch, Crist had supported streamlining the process but not automatic restoration of rights.

"If you truly do believe somebody has paid their debt to society ... then why not restore their right to vote?" Crist said Tuesday.

He said his conversion had nothing to do with Election Day approaching. "It's just where my heart is. It's been a methodical progression of a thought process concerning criminal justice."

Davis campaign spokesman Josh Earnest questioned the timing. "In the past four years Crist has sat on the clemency board and denied justice to thousands of Floridians," Earnest said.

School administrator charged with exposure

ORLANDO - A Kissimmee assistant vice principal is accused of exposing himself to a child in a department store restroom.

Robert M. Young, 50, was arrested Sunday, an Orange County sheriff's report said.

Young told investigators he was merely using the restroom at the Florida Mall when the boy left "screaming and crying."

Young has been reassigned away from students at Mill Creek Elementary School pending the outcome of the investigation.

Overall crime drops, but murders jump

TALLAHASSEE - Crime continued to drop in Florida during the first half of 2006, but violent crimes, particularly murders, went up, a state report released Tuesday says.

Total crimes, ranging from shoplifting to murder, dropped from 412,743 in the first six months of 2005 to 411,608 in the first half this year, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That's a decrease of 0.3 percent, continuing a downward trend that has put the state's crime rate at its lowest in more than three decades.

But there was a striking increase in the number of murders. Local police agencies reported 518 of them through the end of June, up 27 percent from 408 in the first half of 2005. And violent crime in general rose 3.2 percent.

The increase mirrors an uptick in violent crimes and murders nationwide. Officials don't have a clear explanation for it.

Sheriff killed in race was run over twice

TAVARES - The Lake County sheriff killed in a crash during a charity school bus race Saturday was ejected after being hit by another driver, then was run over by his own vehicle and the other one, investigators said Tuesday.

The Florida Highway Patrol is still examining whether Sheriff Chris Daniels was using a seat belt during the low-speed race, or if the old bus had one.

Investigators said there was no indication alcohol was a factor.

Daniels and six other current or former law enforcement heads were racing at New Smyrna Speedway in a benefit for Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranches.


[Last modified October 18, 2006, 01:15:20]

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