Source: Jason B. Cutshaw, "Voting: A Right to Be Heard," army.mil, Jan. 19, 2016
When Florida voters go to the polls for the Nov. 6 election, they'll be determining the fates of over a million currently disenfranchised voters in their state. The Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, a constitutional amendment championed by the group Floridians for a Fair Democracy, would automatically restore the vote to people with felony convictions who have completed prison, parole, and probation, except for those convicted of murder or sexual offenses. Of the more than six million people across the United States who have lost the ability to vote due to a felony conviction, over 1.5 million currently reside in Florida, accounting for 10% of the adult population in the state.
The initiative is opposed by Richard Harrison, Executive Director of Floridians for a Sensible Voting Rights Policy, who says the proposed changes are too broad: "Other than murder and sexual felonies, it treats all other felonies as though they were the same. It's a blanket, automatic restoration of voting rights... [Y]our only choice will be an all or nothing, yes or no vote on the amendment. If it passes, neither you nor anyone else will ever be allowed to consider the specifics of the crime or the post-release history of the criminal before that new voter registration card is issued."
Proponents argue that the current system disproportionately affects people of color and unfairly punishes those who have already served their sentences. Desmond Meade, chairman of the committee that collected the signatures to get the amendment on the ballot, is a convicted felon and law school graduate who originally attempted to have his vote restored in Florida in 2006. Meade says the amendment would ensure that people with felony convictions "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."
A University of North Florida survey found 71% support among likely voters. In Florida, passing a constitutional amendment requires 60% approval by voters.
Greg Allen, "Felons in Florida Want Their Voting Rights Back without a Hassle," npr.org, July 5, 2018
Ballotpedia, "Florida Amendment 4, Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative (2018)," ballotpedia.org (accessed Oct. 16, 2018)
Richard A. Harrison, "Column: Reject Effort to Restore Voting Rights for Most Felons," tampabay.com, Aug. 31, 2017
Annika Hammerschlag, "Florida Strips Felons of Their Right to Vote at a Higher Rate Than Any Other State," usatoday.com, Jan. 15, 2018
Dara Kam, "Amendment to Restore Felons' Voting Rights on Florida November Ballot," palmbeachpost.com, Jan. 24, 2018
Steven Lemongello, "Poll: Felon Voting Rights Amendment Gets Huge Support," orlandosentinel.com, Sep. 24, 2018