Florida Restores Voting Rights for Most Felons

For Yraida Guanipa, an activist released from prison more than 10 years ago who currently defends other ex-convicts' human rights the change

The 1.4 million people affected make up almost a tenth of Florida's voting age population, implying potentially serious changes for the 2020 elections in this critical swing state.

A number of Florida branches of Jewish groups, including the Reform movement's Religious Action Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of Jewish Women and Join for Justice, campaigned for the amendment, which excludes felons convicted of murder and sex crimes.

More than 1 million previously convicted felons have had their right to vote restored in Florida. I can't cast a vote for anything.

While a clemency board run by the governor exists to restore voting rights, that board under Gov. Rick Scott has been extremely biased, restoring the vote disproportionately to white and Republican ex-felons and leaving everyone else to twist in the wind.

Meade, an Orlando resident, led the effort to put Amendment 4 on the ballot this year by gathering at least 766,200 verified signatures, after previous legislators failed to push the measure beyond the Supreme Court.

The measure, which needed 60 percent to pass, garnered more than 64 percent of the vote supporting constitutional Amendment 4, known as the voting rights restoration initiative. In 2016, 21 percent of African-Americans were disenfranchised, according to The Sentencing Project.

Florida's felony disenfranchisement laws were, like those in many other states, a vestige of the its racist 19th century "Black Codes", which attempted to systematically criminalize freed slaves following the Civil War, and then bar them from voting.

Five days out from Election Day, voters were teetering between enshrining the amendment in the state's governing document and telling state lawmakers to kick rocks with 47 percent in favor and 34 percent opposed.

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.

Per usual, the key races in Florida are nail biters. "One of the most important of our lifetime", social activist Shaun King tweeted. For years, the vast majority of disenfranchised felons were non-violent offenders who served their sentences, but were still unable to vote.

Others celebrated the long-awaited victory, which could shift Florida's future political climate.

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