Florida Approves Ballot Measure Restoring Felons' Voting Rights
07 November, 2018, 18:16 | Author: Carlos George
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. As of 9:45 p.m., the only amendment that was short of getting the required 60 percent voter approval was Amendment 1, which would increase a homestead property-tax exemption. For years, the vast majority of disenfranchised felons were non-violent offenders who served their sentences, but were still unable to vote.
The amendment does have its problems.
When Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, he and the Cabinet reversed years of progress - imposing a minimum five-year wait on anyone seeking clemency and requiring them to submit to an arduous, often futile process.
Florida's felony disenfranchisement laws were, like those in many other states, a vestige of the its racist 19th century "Black Codes", which attempted to systematically criminalize freed slaves following the Civil War, and then bar them from voting.
The goal is "giving citizens, not politicians, a greater voice in the drawing of their voting district lines", said Sam Mar of the Action Now Initiative, which provided more than $7 million in support of the measures.
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"In Florida, elected, partisan officials have extraordinary authority to grant or withhold the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people without any constraints, guidelines, or standards", the judge said.
At the beginning of 2018, Floridians for a Fair Democracy collected more than 799,000 certified petition signatures, or about 33,000 more than the group needed to get the measure on the ballot. "One of the most important of our lifetime", social activist Shaun King tweeted.
"For too long, Florida has been an extreme outlier", concluded ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon.
The amendment restores voting rights to ex-felons who completed their sentences, although people convicted of murder or felony sex offences were excluded.
Shortly after Amendment 4 passed, Trump-aligned Republican Ron DeSantis narrowly defeated progressive Democrat Andrew Gillum in the race for Florida governor.
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.
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