Florida Passes Amendment Restoring Voting Rights to 1.5 Million Felons

Tuesday's elections were seen as a referendum on Trump

Tuesday's elections were seen as a referendum on Trump

Voters just passed Amendment 4, a ballot initiative that restores voting rights to nonviolent felons. The outcome brings Florida into the mainstream with the rest of the country and welcomes more than 1 million residents back to the democratic process. Scott and other top officials met only four times a year to consider applications to restore voting rights, causing a backlog of more than 10,000 requests.

Florida was one of three states where those convicted of a felony permanently lose their right to vote, the others being Iowa and Kentucky. They couldn't, of course.

On its own, the passage of Amendment 4 is a positive step forward; it restores basic civil rights to over 1 million people, and spares them the indignity of an invasive, complicated hearing process.

Amendment 4 passed by 64 percent and would re-enfranchise all felons in the state, save those convicted of murder or sex offenses.

"Ultimately, we are citizens, we are in the community, we do want to have a say-I know I do-and this is a great way to have that opportunity", says Bryan Russi, 42, of Orlando, an ex-felon and current real estate agent.

The move is one of the most dramatic expansions of the franchise in modern times. Virginia has a similar provision, but the last two governors have used their executive powers to restore voting rights of those affected.

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The hotly contested Georgia governor's race has garnered national attention and is now neck and neck. Pence is scheduled to appear with Republican nominee Brian Kemp at three rallies around the state.

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 a state with razor-thin partisan margins such as Florida, the addition of more than a million Democratic voters may have a significant impact on the balance of future elections-the Herald noted that outgoing governor and Senate candidate Rick Scott won both of his elections to the governorship by a mere 60,000 votes.

Before Tuesday, the only way a person with a prior felony conviction could vote was through the state's clemency system, spearheaded by the governor. It's a triumph for fairness.

A cross-party, grassroots coalition gathered about 800,000 signatures to get the amendment on the 6 November ballot.

"Today, Floridians from all walks of life and political persuasions came together to make Florida a better democracy and affirm our shared value that when a debt is paid, it's paid", Desmond Meade, chairman of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, a group that led efforts to pass the amendment, said in a prepared statement.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has labeled the ballot initiative as an "environmental amendment" that promotes clean air and clean water.

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