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Despite convictions, Lyons casts his ballot

By JOE NEWMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 1999


He might be a convicted felon, but the Rev. Henry Lyons still takes his civic duties seriously.


A Ministry in Question: more Times coverage of the Rev. Henry Lyons


The former president of the National Baptist Convention USA voted in this week's St. Petersburg election in what may be the last ballot he casts for some time.

Despite his conviction in state court on racketeering and grand theft charges, and his guilty plea in federal court on fraud and tax evasion charges, the county's supervisor of elections office decided that Lyons could vote in Tuesday's election.

Florida law takes voting rights away from felons, but a loophole allows them to vote within 30 days of their conviction -- the period they have to file an appeal, Assistant County Attorney Betsy Steg said.

Steg was asked the day of the election whether Lyons should be allowed to vote. A poll worker at St. Bartholomew's Church, Lyons' polling place, posed the question because Lyons is a loyal voter and was sure to show up that day. County records show he has not missed an election in at least the past 15 years.

State Attorney Bernie McCabe called the time between Lyons' conviction Feb. 27 and the 30 days he has to appeal a "twilight zone." And though he pleaded guilty in federal court on March 17, he would have had 10 days to file an appeal of a criminal conviction.

While McCabe figures there are felons who vote even though their rights have not been restored, Lyons was probably within his rights to cast a ballot Tuesday.

"It didn't affect any races as far as I can tell," McCabe said with a laugh.

 

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