Florida Voting Rights To Be Restored Tuesday For Felons Despite GOP Efforts To Stall It

Florida Voting Rights To Be Restored Tuesday For Felons Despite GOP Efforts To Stall It

There was some doubt that Florida’s Amendment 4 would become a reality on Jan. 8. after Republican lawmakers led by Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis tried using stall tactics until legislators could approve the language of the amendment.

However, organizers behind the amendment say it’s self-executing and can’t be changed. Election supervisors say eligible voter registration applications will be accepted after midnight on Tuesday for most felons who have completed the terms of their sentences.

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Tuesday will be a historic day in Florida when up to 1.4 million former felons in the state have their right to vote restored. It has been described as one of the largest enfranchisements of U.S. citizens in the past 100 years, HuffPost reported. Most ex-felons in the state who have completed their sentence, including probation and parole, can register to vote online or at their local elections office starting Jan. 8. Felons convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense are excluded.

“It’ll be a joyous day,” a pastor who was convicted of armed robbery as a teenager told The Washington Post.

“I’m very excited to get to vote again,” said a Vietnam veteran who was convicted of growing marijuana.

Since the midterm elections, uncertainty has been growing over how and when Amendment 4 will take effect. This created confusion among county election officials and raised the prospect of lawsuits over the voting rights of about 1.4 million people convicted of felonies, The Hill reported.

People learn about Amendment 4 at Charles Hadley Park in Miami on Oct. 22, 2018. Wilfredo Lee—AP

DeSantis said that the constitutional amendment shouldn’t go into effect until state lawmakers approve an implementation bill, WTSP 10 News reported.

County supervisors of elections said they weren’t getting guidance from the Florida Department of State on how to implement the new law.

However several elections supervisors told the Tampa Bay Times this week that Amendment 4 will become effective at midnight on Jan. 8 and eligible voter registrations will be accepted.

Michael Ertel, the incoming elections chief for the state, recently told the Orlando Sentinel that he saw no reason why ex-felons who’ve completed all of the conditions of their sentences shouldn’t be able to register to vote on Tuesday.

Florida’s laws against allowing people with felony records to vote were among the toughest in the U.S. Just two other states — Kentucky and Iowa — have permanently disenfranchised felons. In November, almost 65 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 4 to reinstate the voting rights of most felons.

Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is a grassroots, membership-based organization run by returning citizens who’ve led efforts to restore voting rights in Florida.

“People from all walks of life overwhelmingly voted to support Amendment 4 and the simple premise that when a debt is paid, it is paid,” the coalition said in a Dec. 13 press release in response to DeSantis’ stall tactics.

“Any attempt to delay Florida citizens from registering to vote will be a direct contradiction of both the constitution and the will of the people,” said coalition Executive Director Desmond Meade.

The coalition has been encouraging people from all over Florida who are impacted by the amendment to register to vote at the local supervisor of elections office on Jan. 8.

“For those of us who have been waiting decades to vote, Jan. 8 is going to be a celebration,” said coalition Director Neil Volz.  “ … one that has the support of both of the constitution and the people.”

Its site was full of stories of