In an interview with the Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis said that Amendment 4, which was approved by 64.6 percent (or 5.2 million) of Florida voters, shouldn’t go into effect as intended by the people who wrote the ballot measure. Instead, DeSantis said the amendment, which would restore voting rights for most ex-felons who have served their sentences, should take effect after state lawmakers pass “implementing language” in a bill that is then sent to him for his signature. That means at least a two month delay in restoring felon rights. Advocates of Amendment 4, like the American Civil Liberties Union, say the measure should go into effect on Jan. 8, but session doesn’t start until March 5. This could deny voting rights for many in Tampa hoping to cast a ballot in the mayor’s race.
DeSantis sounded blasé about the delay, framing it as a mere formality.
“They’re going to be able to do that in March,” DeSantis told Bennett, referring to the 60-day legislative session. “There’s no way you can go through this session without implementing it.”
Howard Simon, the ACLU’s former executive director who helped draft Amendment 4, said that’s a misreading of the measure’s intent.
DeSantis’ job “is to facilitate the wishes of the voters, not frustrate and delay what the voters overwhelmingly called for,” Simon told the Times/Herald. “The new language of our Constitution goes into effect on Jan. 8 — and that becomes the highest law of the land. The governor doesn’t have the right to set aside the Constitution.”
Another one of the measure’s authors, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, weighed in, advising DeSantis that no legislation is required.