What is Amendment 4?
In the recent midterm election, Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which automatically restores voting rights in state elections for those previously convicted of a felony. There are some restrictions; the individual must have completed their sentence and those convicted of murder or felony sex crimes are excluded from the measure. However, even with these limitations, Amendment 4 is projected to restore voting rights to over a million Floridians.
Amendment 4 made it to the ballot this November thanks to Floridians for a Fair Democracy. The action group collected over 1.1 million petitions in order to get the measure on the ballot. The amendment had received widespread bipartisan support, with endorsements ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Freedom Partners.
The majority of states impose some voting restrictions on those who have been convicted of a felony. For example, most states bar those who are currently serving a prison sentence from voting, and many others restrict voting rights until the individual convicted of a felony has completed their probation or parole.
However, prior to Amendment 4’s passage, Florida stood as one of the most restrictive states in the nation in terms of penalties for convicted felons. Alongside Iowa and Kentucky, Florida was one of only three states that effectively prohibits felons from voting even after completing their sentences. (Virginia’s Constitution technically restricts felon voting rights as well, but both the current and former governors have used executive orders to give back voting rights to those convicted of felonies.)
Before Amendment 4, those convicted of felonies had to go through a long and arduous process in order to attempt to restore their voting rights. Following a waiting period of up to seven years, the application process could take several more years–and no results were guaranteed. Indeed, the Florida Commission on Offender Review reports that only about 3,000 of the 30,000 applicants succeeded in getting their voting rights back under this system.
What does the Passage of Amendment 4 mean to the State?
With the restoration of voting rights to more than one million people across the state, Florida will reverse its prior position as having more disenfranchised potential voters than any state in the nation. Amendment 4 is one step forward to restoring civil rights to convicted felons who have completed their sentence and paid their debt to society.