Florida decides to restore felons' voting rights automatically

Pauline Gross
November 7, 2018

A cross-party, grassroots coalition gathered about 800,000 signatures to get the amendment on the 6 November ballot.

The measure doesn't apply to anyone convicted of murder and felony sex offenses.

Sixty-four percent of voters opted for yes to Amendment 4, which automatically restores voting rights back to convicted felons after they have paid restitution and completed parole, probation or prison time.

"'Kol hakavod' to the Reform Jewish communities in Florida - and across the US - who organized and mobilized to make this happen", the national Religious Action Center said on Twitter, using the Hebrew term for "well done".

Also known as the "Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees" amendment, it's one of a dozen amendments on the statewide General Election ballot.

A number of major Jewish philanthropists contributed to the campaign, including George Soros, Seth Klarman and Stacy Schusterman.

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The passing of Amendment 4 is likely to most benefit voters of colour in Florida, where an estimated one-in-five African American voters could not vote due to their criminal records. In 2016, 21 percent of African-Americans were disenfranchised, according to The Sentencing Project.

The state's constitution allowed the governor to restore voting rights for any reason he or she saw fit and didn't require an explanation. Constitutional amendments need no less than 60 percent of the vote to pass.

Florida's felony disenfranchisement laws were, like those in many other states, a vestige of the its racist 19th century "Black Codes", which attempted to systematically criminalize freed slaves following the Civil War, and then bar them from voting. 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).

"This is just a vote of love, man". "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".

"Ultimately, we are citizens, we are in the community, we do want to have a say-I know I do-and this is a great way to have that opportunity", says Bryan Russi, 42, of Orlando, an ex-felon and current real estate agent. The two remaining states are Iowa and Kentucky.

Other reports by GizPress

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