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I’ve been researching the amendments and wasn’t finding what I wanted in a single place, so I decided to write up what all I found in this blog. Enjoy!

My take: I’m voting YES on this amendment because I believe the current process is discriminatory and subject to the mood of the governor. To summarize the below, it has lots of supporters, few opponents. Numerous Democrats support it, but interestingly I could only find two Republicans opposing. That said, I didn’t find any Republicans stating their support for the record – they seem to be staying quiet on this one. The organizations that support it range from liberal to libertarian to conservative, and just two organizations oppose it.

What the amendment does:

  • Automatically restores voting rights for people with prior felony convictions upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole, and probation.
    • Except those with murder or felony sex offense convictions. This amendment does not restore voting rights to felons convicted of murder or felony sexual offense. These individuals would need to follow the existing process of petitioning the governor.
    • While rights would be automatically restored, individuals would still have to register to vote like all other citizens.
  • This changes the current process from being in the hands of the governor deciding who gets to have their rights restored to being an automatic process once sentence, probation, and parole are fully served and no pending criminal charges exist.
  • It’s expected to restore voting rights to an estimated 1.6 million former felons in Florida who have completed their sentences who are currently are barred from voting.
    • ACLU says the current process is discriminatory and that 1 in 13 African-Americans have lost their voting rights due to felony disenfranchisement vs. 1 in 56 non-black voters.[1]
    • ACLU also says that studies show recidivism is lower among people who are civically engaged, and argues that restoring voting rights helps encourage civic engagement.

Red or Blue issue?

  • Passing this amendment would make Florida like 19 other states most of which are red states.[2]
    • Alaska (R), Arkansas (R), Georgia (R), Idaho (R), Kansas (R), Louisiana (R), Minnesota (P), Missouri (R), Nebraska (P), New Jersey (B), New Mexico (B), North Carolina (R), Oklahoma (R), South Carolina (R), South Dakota (R), Texas (R), Washington (B), West Virginia (R), and Wisconsin (B).
  • Many Democratic politicians support this, which Republicans seem to be staying away and not weighing in. I could only find two Republicans who oppose it: Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran.
  • Over a dozen organizations liberal and conservative support the amendment, including ACLU, Florida TaxWatch, The Christian Coalition of America, and the Libertarian Party of Florida.
  • There are two organizations opposing, one of which was created specifically to oppose the amendment: Floridians For A Sensible Voting Rights Policy.

Some historical facts:

  • The current process dates from the Civil War era (1868) that institutionalizes a process whereby felons have to petition the court to get voting rights restored. If the court grants the petition, then the matter goes before the governor for his ruling.[3]
  • Florida is one of only 4 states with this process: Iowa, Kentucky, Virginia
  • The decision is at the whim of the governor who makes the final decision.[1]
    • Charlie Crist restored voting rights to about 155,000 Floridians during his tenure.
    • Rick Scott has restored voting rights to about 3,000 since taking office in 2011.

Supporters:[2]

  • U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
  • U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13)
  • Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham (D-2), gubernatorial candidate
  • Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D), gubernatorial candidate
  • Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (D), gubernatorial candidate
  • Christopher King (D), businessman and gubernatorial candidate
  • Julian Castro (D), Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Barack Obama
  • Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil
  • Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida
  • Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Our Revolution
  • New Approach PAC
  • Reentry Alliance Pensacola
  • League of Women Voters of Florida
  • Progress Florida
  • Florida Policy Institute
  • Florida Education Association
  • Florida National Organization for Women
  • The Christian Coalition of America
  • Florida TaxWatch
  • Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce
  • Libertarian Party of Florida

Opponents:[3]

  • Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R), gubernatorial candidate
  • Richard Corcoran (R-37)
  • Florida Family Policy Council
  • Floridians For A Sensible Voting Rights Policy

Constitutional Change if Approved:

This amendment would add the underlined language below to the Florida Constitution Article VI, Section 4. Disqualifications–

(a) No person convicted of a felony, or adjudicated in this or any other state to be mentally incompetent, shall be qualified to vote or hold office until restoration of civil rights or removal of disability. Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, any disqualification from voting arising from a felony conviction shall terminate and voting rights shall be restored upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation.

(b) No person convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense shall be qualified to vote until restoration of civil rights.

(c) No person may appear on the ballot for re-election to any of the following offices:

(1) Florida representative,(2) Florida senator,(3) Florida Lieutenant governor,(4) any office of the Florida cabinet,(5) U.S. Representative from Florida, or(6) U.S. Senator from Florida

if, by the end of the current term of office, the person will have served (or, but for resignation, would have served) in that office for eight consecutive years.[11]

[1] http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-rick-scott-denies-felons-voting-rights-20180427-story.html

[2] https://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Amendment_4,_Voting_Rights_Restoration_for_Felons_Initiative_(2018)

[3] https://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Amendment_4,_Voting_Rights_Restoration_for_Felons_Initiative_(2018)

[1] https://www.aclufl.org/en/issues/voting-rights/floridas-voter-restoration-amendment

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_states_and_blue_states

[3] https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/voting-rights-restoration-efforts-florida

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