In Historic Move, Florida Approves Automatically Restoring Voting Rights To Felons

Minnie Murray
November 9, 2018

Amendment 3, which received about 70percent of the vote, was proposed by Voters in Charge - a political committee largely financed by the Seminole Tribe and Disney.

Currently, felons must wait a minimum of five years after completing their sentences to apply for restoration of their voting rights. Florida's first post-war state constitution in 1865 only gave the right to vote to "free white males", according to a 2016 report by the Brennan Center for Justice. The group collected more than 800,000 signatures to qualify Amendment 4 for the 2018 ballot.

"In Florida, elected, partisan officials have extraordinary authority to grant or withhold the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people without any constraints, guidelines, or standards", the judge said.

In an e-mail to members, Poker Alliance president Mark Brenner said, "Amendment 3 will make it very hard - if not impossible - to expand gaming opportunities in Florida".

But this amendment looks to change that, automatically restoring the voting rights of felons, except those convicted of murder or sex crimes.

While more than 150,000 Floridians had their voting rights restored during Democrat Charlie Crist's four years in office, Gov. Rick Scott's ascension to the office seven years ago put a halt to that.

Despite the candidates' disagreement, the measure was actually supported by people on both sides of the aisle.

"We can't have a democracy with permanent second-class citizens", Howard Simon, the American Civil Liberty Union's Florida executive director, told the Miami Herald.

For many former felons, the passage of Amendment 4 represents a shift in the way they view themselves in society.

Throughout the campaign, the ballot measure gained star-studded support from the likes of "Orange Is The New Black" author Piper Chapman, John Legend, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, NFL stars like Warrick Dunn and even the Koch-backed Freedom Partners. Meanwhile, the ACLU paid more than $5 million in advertising on TV and via social media to get it passed, according to CNBC. Only three other states have lifetime bans on felon voting. Coral is one of around 1.4 million Floridians who stand to get their voting rights back after serving their time for committing a felony.

Within a year, more than 100,000 ex-felons were granted voting rights. "Such evidence can not support the stronger claim that Trump would have lost the state in 2016 but for criminal disenfranchisement". Given the trends on this issue, it likely won't be long before those states reform their laws as well.

The other problem is that it harms the ability of a specific county or municipality to have control over gambling in its area or jurisdiction.

Florida voters took control of casino legislation on Tuesday, giving residents the exclusive right to authorize future casino expansion in the state.

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