Florida passes amendment to restore felons' voting rights

Clay Curtis
November 7, 2018

Its passage could reverberate beyond Florida into the 2020 presidential election due to the important role the state often plays in deciding close national elections, with a newly eligible 1.5 million voters coming into play.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the main group behind the amendment, ran a surprisingly successful campaign in the crime-obsessed, purple state.

More than 64 percent of Florida voters had cast ballots for Amendment 4, which is created to restore voting rights to an estimated 1.4 million felons who have completed their sentences.

The idea of giving voting rights to violent felons like murderers and sex criminals isn't particularly a savory idea, but Oliver notes that only 18% of felons fall into that category-and Florida's amendment doesn't apply to them anyway. Although they make up only 16 percent of the population according to the 2010 Census, black people make up 43 percent of Florida's inmate population, according to the latest yearly report from the Florida Department of Corrections. It faced little organized opposition.

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Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate who has conceded in Florida's gubernatorial race, supported the measure while his opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis, opposed it.

Tallahassee mayor and Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum waves at supporters after casting his ballot with his children on November 6, 2018 in Tallahassee, Fla. The amendment needed at least 60 percent approval to be added to the Florida Constitution, and its success disproves the adage that people generally vote their own self-interest.

Essentially, based on research at Ballotpedia.org, which cites both supporters and opposition of the amendment, Florida Amendment 3 is created to take the legislation of gambling out of hands of legislators and put it into the hands of the citizens. It passed because a large majority of Florida voters recognized the injustice of the current system and saw the value in extending a second chance to people who have paid their debts and deserve to reclaim their status as full citizens. The board meets four times a year.

Shortly after taking office in 2007, then-Republican Governor Charlie Crist persuaded two of the state's three Cabinet members to approve rules that would allow the parole commission to restore voting rights for nonviolent felons without a hearing.

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