Florida returns vote to 1.5 million ex-felons

Aaron Brown
November 7, 2018

Florida just added 1.4 million potential voters to its rolls by passing Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to people with past felony convictions.

With 70 percent of precincts reporting, multiple news outlets are now calling it for Amendment 4. Whereas most states prohibit people now in prison from voting and some extend this to probation or parole, Florida was one of four states where felon status permanently removed one's voting rights.

The amendment does have its problems. It would not apply to felons convicted of murder and sex offenses. He ruled Florida's system that requires felons wait five years to petition the governor and three elected Cabinet members for the right to vote was "fatally flawed".

In February, a federal judge declared Florida's current procedure for restoring voting rights to felons to be unconstitutional.

But, one vote has already been decided and needs no recount.

For Yraida Guanipa, who was released from prison more than a decade ago and could not then vote, the change "is a light at the end of the tunnel".

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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.

"For too long, Florida has been an extreme outlier", concluded ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon.

Florida's measure on felon voting rights was among those placed on the ballot by citizen initiative.

Supporters of the amendment have said the old process of applying for restoration of those rights is prohibitively hard and arbitrary. It also received a groundswell of grassroots support from ex-offenders and their families, who say those who paid their debt to society should be returned to full citizenship.

Detractors argued the amendment didn't differentiate between people who committed violent crimes and those who committed non-violent crimes. The outcome brings Florida into the mainstream with the rest of the country and welcomes more than 1 million residents back to the democratic process.

Of note on the supporting side of the amendment (meaning they want the citizen vote) was the Walt Disney Company - hello tourism competition - and the Seminole Tribe of Florida - hello casino competition - along with other organizations around the state. In April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo restored the voting rights of an estimated 24,000 people who are now on probation or parole.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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