The Midterm Elections are about more than just which party will control Congress and state governments around the country. In many states, voters will also get to participate in direct democracy by voting on ballot measures to change state policies. Florida voters will be asked to decide on one major policy change in 2018 through a ballot measure that would automatically restore the voting rights of most of the formerly incarcerated. In 48 states across the country, individuals convicted of a felony lose their right to vote when they are incarcerated. In the vast majority of these states, those citizens will regain the right to vote at the completion of either their prison term, parole or probation. But a select few permanently disenfranchise all people with felony convictions, even after they have paid their debt to society. The worst state in terms of the sheer number of people impacted is Florida.
Of the 6.1 million Americans who cannot vote due to these disenfranchisement laws, 1.68 million of them live in Florida. That is 27 percent of the nation’s total (although Florida is only 6.4 percent of the total U.S. population). African-Americans are disproportionately affected by these laws, and at this point 21 percent of African-Americans in Florida are unable to vote due to them. These Floridians can only regain their Constitutional rights by petitioning the governor, but since Rick Scott has taken office, he has only approved fewer than 3,000 restorations out of nearly 30,000 applications.
Per the state’s ballot initiative rules, it will need 60 percent of the vote to pass. That means it will need wide support across the ideological spectrum. According to 2014 exit polls, that midterm electorate last time around was 40 percent moderate, 37 percent conservative, and 22 percent liberal. The first poll on the measure was released in early February by the University of North Florida. It found that 71 percent of voters initially support the measure, while only 22 percent oppose.