A proposed amendment to restore the voting rights of Florida felons after completion of their sentences received just enough signatures to trigger a review by the Florida Supreme Court and a potential place on the November 2018 ballot. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi passed the initiative onto the high court to review the language within the Voting Restoration Amendment. The court will review to see if the language is clear and not misleading, and ensure the initiative has only one purpose. A hearing is expected by the end of the year. If approved and if the group supporting the initiative, Floridians for a Fair Democracy, can get enough signatures, it can go on the November 2018 ballot. “The felon voting right initiative is pushed by the recognition that people do make mistakes but deserve a second chance,” American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Director Howard Simon told the Florida Record.
“This is all part of Florida’s ugly past. “This system of lifetime felon disenfranchisement was part of a post-Civil War era system designed to take political power away from black people and this is one of the terrible parts of that system that still survives. The only remedy is to bring the Constitution to the 21st century and out of an era still rooted in Jim Crow laws.”
Almost all U.S. states, with the exception of Maine and Vermont, deny incarcerated felons the right to vote but many restore those rights after they have completed their sentences.
Florida is one of only three states that have state constitutions that mandate lifetime felon disenfranchisement. Voting rights can only be restored as a result of clemency by the governor, or in the case of Florida, by the Cabinet. Felons can apply for restoration of their voting rights, but critics contend the process is too political.