Florida voters restore most former convicts' voting rights

Howard TerryNov 08, 2018

It doesn't apply to anyone convicted of murder or sexual assault.

According to the Florida state department, roughly 13 million citizens are registered to vote, with both Republicans and Democrats having almost 5 million party members each.

When it goes into effect, an estimated 1.5 million people in Florida who have completed felony sentences but have not been able to vote could show up to the polls, according to the nonprofit Sentencing Project. As a result, Florida still has the highest number of citizens who can not vote of any state, with more than 10% of potential voters prevented from casting ballots.

By Tuesday evening, more than 60 percent of Floridians casting ballots had voted yes, capping one of 2016's most inspired and politically important campaigns, an effort that sparked a grassroots army that will undoubtedly continue to participate in politics.

The measure was placed on the ballot by petition. That means 1.5 million Floridians with prior felony convictions will be eligible to vote in 2020.

With passage of the amendment, Florida joins the ranks of dozens of American cities and states that have been relaxing restrictions on voting for former prisoners in recent years.

"This is proof when you speak up and work hard and fight for something you believe in, good things will happen", Stratemann said.

Regaining the right to vote is a complicated process.

The Florida constitution, with Jim Crow-era roots, barred people from voting even after having completed their sentences.

"Tonight, in an historic vote, Florida voters have delivered a knock-out blow to a cruel industry that has been hurting and killing dogs for almost a century", the Yes on 13 campaign wrote in a statement.

Still, on an evening when liberals and progressives are nervously awaiting results in Florida and around the country, a win for voting rights is a significant victory worthy of celebrating.

"When transgender rights are being threatened nationally, we absolutely must preserve the rights we have secured at the state level", said Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of MA. However, according to a Vox analysis of the voting habits of people previously convicted of felonies in states where they have voting rights, this group tends to vote at low rates and does not have a clear partisan bias.

Virginia, Iowa and Kentucky remain the only states with permanent disenfranchisement policies on the books.

Supporters of the amendment said the current system was too strict.

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