Everyone remembers that the 2000 presidential election was decided by 537 votes in Florida. Far fewer remember another important number from the state that year — 620,000, the Floridians who were barred from voting because state records showed, correctly or not, they had been convicted of a felony. It didn’t matter whether their crime was murder or driving with a suspended license, nor whether they had fully served their sentence. In Florida, the voting ban is entrenched in the Constitution, and it’s for life. Today, Florida disenfranchises almost 1.5 million of its citizens, more than 11 states’ populations and roughly a quarter of the more than six million Americans who are unable to vote because of a criminal record.
Felon disenfranchisement is a destructive, pointless policy that hurts not only individuals barred from the ballot box, but American democracy at large. Its post-Civil War versions are explicitly racist, and its modern-day rationales are thin to nonexistent. It can make all the difference in places like Florida, which didn’t stop being competitive in 2000; the state remains a major presidential battleground, and victories for both parties in state and local elections are often narrow.
That could all change if a proposed constitutional amendment gets enough signatures to be placed on the ballot in November and wins enough support. The initiative would automatically restore voting rights to the vast majority of Floridians who have completed their sentence for a felony conviction, including any term of parole or probation.
Full Article: Florida’s 1.5 Million Missing Voters – The New York Times.