Florida Voters Restore Voting Rights to Felons

In this, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018 photo, a woman puts on a pin-back button in support of Amendment 4 at the Ben & Jerry's "Yes on 4" truck in Miami.

In this, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018 photo, a woman puts on a pin-back button in support of Amendment 4 at the Ben & Jerry's "Yes on 4" truck in Miami. AP Photo

 

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Under Amendment 4, most people convicted of a felony will have their voting rights restored once their sentences are done, including completing parole.

Most people convicted of felony crimes in Florida would get their voting rights restored after they’ve served sentences under a ballot measure approved by voters on Tuesday.

Florida had one of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation, banning convicted felons from voting even after they are released from prison and finished serving probation or parole. Felons there needed to wait five years to apply with state officials to have their voting rights restored.

The constitutional amendment would restore felons' voting rights once their sentences are done, including completing parole. People convicted of felony sex crimes and murder are exempted.

Sixty percent of voters in Florida must approve a constitutional amendment. As of 11:30 p.m. EDT, Amendment 4 had passed with more than 64 percent of the vote, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

The Sentencing Project in a 2016 report found that 6.1 million people across the country were disenfranchised by felony voting restrictions. More than a quarter of that group—or 1.5 million people—live in Florida.

A federal judge earlier this year strongly condemned Florida’s process that required felons to apply for the ability to vote to a panel that includes the governor. The Tampa Bay Times called Gov. Rick Scott the “principal architect” of the system as currently run, which moves at a slow pace and reversed some changes made by former Gov. Charlie Crist. In February, the paper estimated there were 10,000 people waiting to be heard.

Scott has defended the process as keeping convicted felons “accountable to their victims and our communities.”

Laura Maggi is the Managing Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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