More than a million former Florida prisoners have regained the right to vote, thanks to a ballot initiative.
As of January, released prisoners could simply fill out the existing application, signing under oath that their voting rights have been restored, reported the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida in an Associated Press (AP) article.
The ballot initiative approved in November excludes those convicted of murder or sex offenses, the AP noted.
“Voting is one of the most sacred and valuable rights you have as an American. A population of voters have a second chance to contribute to our communities through voting and getting re-involved in the political process,” said Stephen Nodine, who is formerly incarcerated and head of Second Chance Voters organization, reported PRNews.
The passage of Amendment 4 means at least 1.4 million former prisoners will be eligible to vote. This can change the dynamic of the battleground state, according to the AP article.
“I feel like I’m a United States citizen,” said Jerry Armstrong, 45, registering for the first time, reported the New York Times.
The state’s new governor, Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has suggested that the amendment could face challenges down the line.
DeSantis said state law-makers should craft legislation when their session begins in March to define exactly which former felons are now eligible, though the amendment appears to lay that out explicitly, the New York Times reported.
“It’s not delaying it — the people spoke on it,” DeSantis told reporters. “But I think it’s got to be implemented the way that the people intended. And I don’t think that they wanted to see any sex offenders fall through the cracks.”
Former Florida governors, Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, enacted rules during their terms that streamlined restoration of voting rights for returning citizens. But when Rick Scott became governor in 2011, he imposed a five-to-seven-year period – depending on their offenses; before a former prisoner could apply to have those rights restored, reported Huffpost.
For more information about Second Chance Voters, visit www.secondchancevoter.org.
Currently Californians on probation can vote. Former prisoners who completed parole are also eligible to vote. The state attorney general announced in January that efforts will be made to expand voting rights for the formerly incarcerated.