Florida ballot initiative giving former felons the right to vote passes

Florida ballot initiative giving former felons the right to vote passes

Florida voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an amendment to allow ex-felons who have served prison terms to vote, allowing another 1.5 million people to take part in the 2020 presidential election.

Before the result, Florida was one of the four states that did not restore voting rights to felons after serving their sentences.

Amendment 4 passed by 64 percent and would re-enfranchise all felons in the state, save those convicted of murder or sex offenses.

The amendment does have its problems.

Currently, felons must wait a minimum of five years after completing their sentences to apply for restoration of their voting rights.

The outcome in MA was a huge relief to LGBT-rights activists, who feared that a vote to repeal the 2016 law would prompt a wave of similar efforts to roll back protections in other states.

Critics railed against the proposal, saying it would make it far more hard to pass such measures at the state level.

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Floridians voted Tuesday evening to restore the right to vote to some 1.4 million ex-felons in the state.

Thirty-three states have various laws disenfranchising felony offenders and those under law enforcement supervision, impacting an estimated 6.1 million potential voters, according to a 2016 Sentencing Project report.

"For too long, Florida has been an extreme outlier - our state's lifetime voting ban was the single most powerful voter suppression tactic in the country, shutting more people out of the voting booth and out of our democracy than any other single law or policy in the country".

In a statement, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon celebrated what he called "one of the largest expansions of the franchise in our nation's history" but warned that the fight was not over.

Amendment 4 activists gathered the signatures of over 800,000 registered voters to get the amendment on the ballot, assisted by celebrity supporters including John Legend and Rihanna. Those people will still be barred from voting unless their rights are restored by the state clemency board, which consists of the governor and the three cabinet officers (attorney general, chief financial officer and commissioner of agriculture and consumer services). According to the Second Chances website, Amendment 4 is a major step in "fixing" the voting system in Florida.

Detractors argued the amendment didn't differentiate between people who committed violent crimes and those who committed non-violent crimes.

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