Florida’s Amendment 4 would end 150 years of disenfranchisement

Florida voters will go to the polls this November with a large number of people and items to vote for or against. As of today, there are five items that will appear on the ballot which would change Florida’s Constitution. One would increase Florida’s property tax exemption, Amendment 2 would put limitations on property tax assessments, Amendment 3 would affect gambling in the state, Amendment 4 would restore the voting rights of some convicted felons, and Amendment 5 would require a supermajority of the Florida legislature to raise taxes and state fees. We will report on all of these constitutional amendments as the year progresses.

Today, we will talk about Amendment 4 which would restore the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis. Many in the state would like to see the automatic restoration of all one’s constitutional rights once they have served their time; however, voting is the only right Amendment 4 addresses.

Second Chances Florida put out a press release Thursday: “Florida enshrined disenfranchisement in its constitution 150 years ago today. This law was put in place in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. Today, Florida is one of only four states with a lifetime ban on voting and permanently excludes 1.4 million Floridians, who have served their time and paid their debts to society, from voting. Now is the time to retire this antiquated law by voting YES on Amendment 4 in November.”

Republicans tend to be against such a measure and Democrats tend to be for it. Libertarians have long been for such a measure passing the Florida legislature and have also supported efforts in the past to get it on the ballot for Floridians to vote up or down. The Libertarian Party of Florida states on its website that it wants to “restore voting and gun rights for those convicted of non-violent drug offenses.” The main problem had with prior attempts at automatic rights restoration is that they often excluded one’s restoration of their Second Amendment right to own and possess a firearm.

The Republican Party of Florida has largely been silent on the issue; however, Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott has to be forced by a federal court to revamp Florida’s antiquated voter restoration system. The Democratic Party of Florida states on their website that they support “the automatic restoration of voting rights to Floridians with felony convictions after they have completed all terms of their sentence (including parole and probation).

 

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