Amendment 4: Restoring the right to vote for felons

Florida residents to vote on felon voter rights initiative

It required felons to wait at least five years after completing their sentence before they could file a request with the governor and Cabinet.

Voters considering Constitutional Amendment 10 will have a number of items to contemplate, but this proposal put forward by the Constitution Revision Commission might best be viewed as a power struggle between state and local governments.

Several states now prevent convicted felons from voting, but only three states - Florida, Kentucky and Iowa - withhold the right after sentences have been completed.

With the passage of Amendment 4, as many as 1.5 million Floridians will be re-enfranchised ahead of the next election. "When the 2000 election was affected by the felon purge list, we went to work to end Florida's system of lifetime felon disenfranchisement".

Amendment 3, also known as the Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative, passed with 71.5 percent of the vote, despite a late push from opposition that believes the move will only further strengthen the Seminole Tribe's stranglehold on the Florida gambling market.

It would also require the Florida Legislature to convene during even-numbered years in January rather than March.

Scott has said, "If you are a convicted felon part of what you did is you lose your rights and there ought to be a process to get those rights back". I think how we did it was also helpful. 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.

It is impossible to talk about Amendment 4's passage without noting its political impact one day after the state's two top Democrats apparently lost by very close margins-even though the moral and inspiration dimensions of the campaign can not be ignored. Bill Nelson and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, supported Amendment 4.

The measure received broad bipartisan support.

Nine states initiated measures concerning voting requirements and ballot access, including voter identification requirements, term limits, automatic and same-day voter registration, the ability to vote after a felony conviction, the ability to run for office after a felony conviction, and ballot collection.

A spokesman for Republican Governor Rick Scott said at the time that Florida's process for restoring voting rights to felons had been in place for decades and adhered to U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Other states have been gradually been changing their laws to provide that voting and other civil rights are automatically restored upon completion of a sentence, including any conditions of probation or parole.

Previously, Florida was one of three states-along with Iowa and Kentucky-that barred anyone who has committed a felony from voting. Given the trends on this issue, it likely won't be long before those states reform their laws as well. Whether the ex-felons choose to exercise that right to vote or not is their choice, but to the extent it symbolizes the fact that the completion of their sentence should be seen as a second chance at a clean life, a step like this could just be what it takes to help many of these people avoid falling through the cracks again.

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