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Politics

Florida Voters to Decide on Restoring Felon Voting Rights on 2018 Ballot

January 23, 2018 - 1:30pm

Come November, Florida voters will determine whether or not to restore voting rights to 1.5 million registered felons across the state. 

Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced Tuesday that the proposal to restore felon voting rights had surpassed the necessary 766,000 valid signatures to be placed on the ballot in November later this year. 

According to the Florida Division of Elections website, the petition had gathered nearly 800,000 valid signatures as of Tuesday morning. 

“Through the hard work of Florida voters and unwavering dedication of a truly grassroots movement, we have reached a historic milestone and have officially placed the Second Chances Voting Restoration Amendment on the ballot,” said Desmond Meade, Chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy and spokesperson for Second Chances Florida Campaign. 

Meade, a convicted felon, has been working for years on the petition, which will appear as Amendment 4 on the ballot later this year. 

“Voters took matters in their own hands to ensure that their fellow Floridians, family members, and friends who’ve made past mistakes, served their time and paid their debts to society are given a second chance and the opportunity to earn back their ability to vote,” said Meade. 

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 proposed amendment 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. 

Felons make up around nine percent of Floridians. 

Supporters of the amendment urged Floridians to vote in favor of Amendment 4, saying the measure would be life-changing for millions of disenfranchised Floridians.

“People believe in forgiveness, redemption, restoration and, ultimately, second chances,” said Ash Mason, Chairman of the Christian Coalition of Florida. “It is why voters from all corners of the state and all walks of life – including religious groups and people working to build stronger communities – support the Voting Restoration Amendment. It’s simply the right thing to do.”

 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen


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