In a key-ballot initiative, Florida will now restore voting rights to citizens convicted of felonies, with the exception of murder and sex offenses, after they serve their time. Approximately 1.5 million people are currently barred from voting in Florida because of past felonies, a statistic that represents 10% of Florida’s adult population. 64% of Floridians agreed to restore felon voting rights. The key-ballot initiative required for a majority of 60% support to pass.
Previously, felons who have served their sentences in Florida would have to appeal to the Governor and the Cabinet for the restoration of their voting rights. Florida was one of the three states, the others being Kentucky and Iowa, that prevented people with felony records to vote.
“I do think that Amendment 4 is going to transform Florida forever, but nobody really knows exactly how and when, because nobody has a good understanding of what the political leanings are of 1.4 million people who have completed all the terms of their sentences,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
Voter Disenfranchisement has been a long-standing issue in America. The problem is the right to vote isn’t entrenched in the U.S. Constitution, and in fact, the 14th Amendment allows for it to be changed in certain situations. This really affects the African-American population. Up to 21% of African-Americans are disenfranchised, according to The Sentencing Project. Felon voter disenfranchisement coincides with voter purging (currently prominent in Georgia) and voter ID laws.
Florida is a major swing state, a state where Trump won in the 2016 presidential election. Even during the 2000 presidential election of George W. Bush, it was a tight race.
The support for the restoration of felon voter rights should surpass bipartisanship because people deserve a second chance, it’s not a political issue, rather than a morality issue. Andrew Gillum, a progressive Democratic candidate in Florida’s gubernatorial race supports the initiative, while his opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis opposed it. This affects people from every community. It is genuinely not about bipartisanship.
Overall, Amendment 4 is a historic victory for former felons in Florida It changed the Florida State Constitution. This will immensely change the Florida electorate and will allow for democracy to rise. This repealed one of the worst of the Jim Crow laws in the country. Amendment 4 will allow an increased voter turnout and electoral outcomes. I am now quite optimistic about the future of elections and the voting rights restoration movement.