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Florida Supreme Court Approves Ballot Language to Restore Ex-Felon Voting Rights

April 20, 2017 - 2:45pm

Florida voters will determine the fate of nearly 1.6 million ex-felons across the state in 2018. On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court approved the language of the Voting Restoration Amendment and certified the more than 70,000 petition signatures in support of the constitutional referendum to allow ex-felons the right to vote.

For nearly 200 years, Florida has had one of the strictest voting regulations in the country when it comes to released felons. Florida is one of three states in the country which disallows ex-felons who have served part or all of their sentences the right to vote for the rest of their lives.

The language would not allow those convicted of sex crimes or murders to vote.

When Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, he largely reversed the policy to restore felon voting rights instituted under former Gov. Charlie Crist. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi made it so felons would have to wait at least five years after finishing their sentences before they could apply to vote again.

Over 10,000 requests currently sit in Scott’s office, waiting for the seal of approval, but the governor and Bondi have been notoriously slow in restoring felon voting rights, only approving around a quarter of those applications so far. 

Now that the Supreme Court has approved the ballot language, it means it is all geared up and ready to go for 2018 as long the initiative gathers 700,000 signatures in support of the measure.

Thursday’s ruling was a long time coming for supporters of the amendment, who have tried for years to change the way Florida handles restoring felon voting rights.

Democrats had filed proposals in the state legislature to expand voting rights to ex-felons. Florida House Rep. Al Jacquet, D-Lantana, filed a bill in February to reinstate voting rights to felons three years after they've served their sentences. 

HJR 565 would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to automatically reinstate the voting rights of individuals who have "paid their debt to society" three years after completing their sentence.

“Thousands of Floridians—from across the state and from different backgrounds have added their names to express their support for second chances,”  Kirk Bailey, ACLU of Florida Political Director said. “Now the work of gathering signatures and mounting a successful campaign to change the Florida Constitution begins in earnest. We look forward to Florida voters being given a chance to bring our state’s voting rules out of the 19th century and into the 21st.”  

Florida Rights Restoration Coalition president Desmond Meade said the day was one to remember and an important one for Floridians just trying to get another shot at a normal life.

"Today is a momentous day,” said Meade. “The Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Voting Restoration Amendment to move forward marks a key milestone on our path to a stronger democracy and a fairer Florida. Those who have paid their debt to society deserve a second chance.”




Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen



Charlotte County Democratic Party Supports Voting Rights Restoration Amendment

As a felon who has had their right to vote restored and has exercised that right I am amazed at people's closed mindedness. I guess those who are against us, are perfect and have never made bad choices. I am 16 years sober and have not had so much as a speeding ticket in all this time, but I guess I'm still a horrible person in some people's eyes..... guess what. I am the woman you pay to clean your house, I am your nurse, I am your clerk at the local gas station, I may even be your lawyer or judge. Think about that

I'm with you my dear. Some people have forgotten that some judges serving now on the bench have had felony but still can rule and decide for any one of us. People of This country has lost their compassion , lost their kindness, lost empathy and sympathy for others unless happens to them personally. And interstingly most of them talk about how Jesus was forgiving ,kind and all .

As a volunteer in this effort, it is a very worthwhile cause. I hope that more voters in Florida continue to sign the petition. The deadline to get this issue on the November 2018 General Election ballot is February 1, 2018. If you have not signed it you can Google Floridians for a Fair Democracy, Inc. and download , sign and mail it in to the address in the bottom right corner of the petition.

Boomer, the text of the ballot summary reads, "This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis. Note specifically the reference to exclusion of those convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

Does the approved language state that they must have paid all restitution to the victim if it was ordered?

The headline for this article is NOT accurate, and is causing grave misunderstanding. The ballot language specifically states: NON-VIOLENT ex-felons who have served their time, including probation. The truth is, studies have shown the recidivism rates for ex-felons who've had their rights restored, are much less than for those who haven't, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars and allowing the possibility of becoming a productive citizen. I'm requesting that the Sunshine State News writer correct this omission for the record.

Americans who have felonious charges and have paid their debt to society, should be allowed to vote. There is no reason why they should continue to be punished when they have served their sentences. They should have the right to vote again!

SURE, What the Hell!.....After all, it seems dead people already exercise a "right to vote" in THIS State and across this country,...Don't they ?!?

This is just another example of Liberal ACLU nonsense !.. If you were convicted of a FELONY, you DON'T vote, EVER... you lose tht right FOREVER...UNLESS the Governor PARDONS you of your FELONIUS CRIME ! This constitutional amendmemt NONSENSE alleviates useless self-important "rock star" Legislators from DOING THEIR JOBS of reviewing individual felony records and recomminding "Pardon relief" to the Governor (which he then takes under advisment. If this procedure is "short circuited en masse",... THEN WHY DO WE EVEN NEED LEGISLATORS?!?!?... Let's just solve EVERY problem via the "medical marijuana method"... (At least then there will ne NO. quid pro quo payments "under the table" between Lobbys, politicians, "special interest groups", wealthy donors, lawyers of all shapes and sizes (including Liberal ACLU wonks who see another potential method to create votes to keep themselves somewhat relevent and in existence... NO, Don't fall for this ruse Governor: unless you want to create another "sale of indulgences" relative to "wholesale votes" to the wealthiest and "shadyist' BUYER..!

looks like you will not be voting from the trailer park after all

YOU make no sense "pp";.....and "wimps" like you should never use the word "punisher" in your "nom de plume"... Someone just might challenge you to prove it...

No wonder there's a lack of respect for law and order. The consequences of conviction of a felony, not a misdemeanor or civil infraction mind you, is being treated like the latter. There should be a stigma that attaches for a grave societal transgression. I do not want drug dealers, wife beaters, sexual perverts, muggers, rapists, murders and their ilk to have restored voting rights after some arbitrary time period runs. These folks are part and parcel to the decay that permeates society today and is getting worse. Their vote should not be shaping the future of our localities, states or nation.

You understand there are countless, nonviolent charges which fall under felony category? Several of which, don't even require jail or prison time, depending on the case? Attempted purchase of marijuana included? So a 20 year old who "attempted" to buy a Xanax or bag of pot should never be afforded the right to vote again for the rest of their lives...? This is unreasonable.

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