More than 1 million Floridians with felony convictions regained the right to vote on Tuesday, setting in motion a process that carries the potential to reshape elections in the country’s largest and most unpredictable battleground state. The mass re-enfranchisement of felons who have completed their sentences is the result of Amendment 4, a ballot initiative approved by nearly 65 percent of Florida voters in November that ends a longtime policy requiring felons to petition the state clemency board for their voting rights to be restored. The move expands the pool of eligible voters in Florida by roughly 1.4 million people — a significant number in a state where elections are often decided by fewer than 100,000 votes — setting off a scramble to register eligible felons.
“We got the amendment passed so now we actually have to get people registered to vote,” Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), a former governor who in 2007 helped streamline the clemency process, said in an interview Tuesday.
Exactly which party stands to benefit the most from the new pool of eligible voters remains uncertain, according to multiple experts and activists. It’s also unclear just how many felons will actually register to vote.