Published: Thu, November 08, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Florida returns vote to 1.5 million ex-felons

Florida returns vote to 1.5 million ex-felons

The amendment, which passed Tuesday night with 64% of the vote, restores voting rights for people convicted of felonies as long as they have completed their sentences, though it excludes people convicted of murder or felony sex offenses.

"Is the state legislature going to throw up impediments for these individuals to have their voting rights restored?" asked Paulson.

Previously, Florida was one of just four states in the U.S. that automatically and permanently revoked voting rights from anyone who had been convicted of a felony-level crime. During his two terms in office, former Gov. and now Sen. -elect Rick Scott had restored the voting rights of roughly 3,000 felons who had served out their sentences. The amendment needs to be approved by 60 percent of voters to become law. While some opponents of the amendment are still in favor of speeding up the process, they claim that Amendment 4 will allow former felons to regain their voting rights automatically, without any process.

While the amendment had support from both liberal and conservative groups, outspoken support for the amendment mostly came from the Democrat side of the aisle among Florida politicians running for midterm elections.

The current system significantly affects African-Americans in the state: More than 20 percent of otherwise eligible African-American adults are unable to vote under this process.

On Tuesday night, voters chose to keep the exclusive right to decide to authorize expansions of casino gambling in Florida.

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With its 29 electoral college votes and perennial swing-state status, Florida is tremendously influential politically. According to a 2016 report from the Sentencing Project, the state of Florida is responsible for 27 percent of the nation's disenfranchised population, and 48 percent of the nation's disenfranchised convicted ex-felon population.

But the passage of this amendment to Florida's constitution will go some way to correct this situation.

Neil Volz, a board member of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, told By Any Means Necessary on Radio Sputnik Wednesday, "People believe that when a debt is paid, it's paid".

Amendment 4 activists gathered the signatures of over 800,000 registered voters to get the amendment on the ballot, assisted by celebrity supporters including John Legend and Rihanna.

"We are on the cusp of history here in Florida", said Delaitre Hollinger, president of the NAACP's Tallahassee branch.

That's a quarter of the total number of people nationwide who are forbidden to vote because of a felony conviction.

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