The midterm elections came and went, and for 1.5 million convicted felons in the state of Florida, there was a big win. Amendment 4 passed on Tuesday with more than 60% of the vote, allowing for the voting rights of convicted felons to automatically be restored.
What This New Amendment Means
With the newly passed amendment, felons who have finished their full sentences will now be allowed to vote in the state of Florida. Full sentences include time, fines, probation, and parole. However, felons who have been convicted of murder or sex offenses are not eligible.
Once this amendment goes into play an estimated 1.5 million people in Florida who have completed felony sentences will be able to vote in the next election. A quarter of the population nationwide has been unable to vote due to felony charges on their record.
It took Floridians for a Fair Democracy over two years to get this item on the ballot and over 700k signatures to get it there. The state approved it last January and the organization has eagerly waited for this moment. As of 2016, more than 10% of potential Florida voters were unable to vote due to the strict laws of the state.
"We are a nation of second chances," Desmond Meade, the group's chairman, said at the time.
Meade, a felon who went on to earn a law degree, had to wait three years to get his voting rights restored. The Orlando resident was convicted of drug and firearm charges in 2001, according to an article from CNN.
Voting Rights for Convicted Felons Across the Country
When it comes to the rights of convicted felons, the laws vary from state to state as set by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Florida was one of 13 states that had a lifetime voting ban in place.
Many other states take voting rights away from convicted felons either temporarily or not at all. In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose the right to vote. In 14 other states and Washington, D.C., they lose their rights only while incarcerated. In 22 states, voting rights are only lost until the terms of the sentence and parole are complete.
While Florida was once one of the strictest states when it came to the voting rights of convicted felons, as of this week its all been changed. The rights of over a million voters in the state of Florida have been restored.
Chavez, N. (2018, November 07). Florida restores voting rights to more than 1 million felons. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/07/politics/florida-felons-voting-rights/index.html
L. (2018, November 07). Florida votes to restore ex-felon voting rights with Amendment 4. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/11/6/18052374/florida-amendment-4-felon-voting-rights-results