Florida Amendment 4 is an initiative to restore voting rights to ex-felons.
If passed, it would restore voting rights to 1.6 million Floridians. There are only 13 million registered voters on Florida. This means that this could have a huge impact on elections, and potentially national politics.
Opponents of the measure, including Ron DeSantis, say that people who commit serious crimes shouldn’t be able to vote. Many states deny voting rights to imprisoned felons. But Florida is one of only four states that permanently denies voting rights to felons.
As things stand, the majority of felons cannot vote, even after serving their sentences. Most of these people committed nonviolent crimes, such as marijuana possession. 20% of blacks can’t vote in Florida because of this law.
Felon disenfranchisement is a holdover from Jim Crow laws, where blacks received harsh sentences for minor crimes, and then lost the right to vote indefinitely. It’s part of the reason Florida has never had a black governor.
The only way for a felon to be able to vote again is to petition the state government. This process is anything but fair. It involves a waiting period of at least five years, then going before a panel. The panel can arbitrarily restore or deny voting rights. In one study, only 3,005 out of 30,000 applicants had their rights restored by this panel.
Amendment Four would change all of that. It would automatically restore voting rights as soon as a person completes their sentence, excluding murderers and sex offenders.
It will be on the ballot in Florida on November 6th, 2018.