Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Florida voters pass Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to former felons

Floridians have voted in favour of a law that returns voting rights to former felons once they have completed their sentence, according to U.S. media reports.

Amendment 4 was placed on the ballot for the midterm elections after some 800,000 people signed a petition created by Floridians for Fair Democracy, CBS affiliate WTSP reported.

The text of the amendment, also called the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, says that it aims to restore “voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation,” according to Ballotpedia.

Supporters said the state’s current system was too onerous. — it required felons to wait at least five years after seeing out their sentences before requesting the state’s clemency board, which comprises the governor and cabinet, to restore their voting rights.

The amendment will impact 1.5 million people in Florida, one of four states that takes away voting rights from former felons, the Pensacola News Journal reported.

The amendment won’t apply to people convicted of murder or sexual offences, who will continue to remain barred from voting unless the clemency board votes to restore their rights on an individual, case-by-case basis.

Florida was one of four states that disenfranchises former felons. Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia are the other three.

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were among those who spoke out in support of the measure.

Opponents argued that the measure treats all felons alike and takes away the ability to judge each individually.

In February, a federal judge ruled the state’s policy requiring felons to petition the government to have their voting rights restored was unconstitutional because it was lengthy, arbitrary and forced them to “kow-tow” to the whims of state politicians.

A spokesman for Governor Rick Scott said at the time that Florida‘s process for restoring voting rights to felons had been in place for decades and adhered to U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

— With a file from the Associated Press

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