Coral Nichols will be eligible to vote when she’s 190. That’s assuming the 40-year-old Floridian — who served five years in prison for fraud and embezzlement, followed by nearly 10 years on probation — is able to keep up with her $100 monthly restitution payments. Jermaine Miller thought he had fully repaid the $223.80 he owed in restitution for a 2015 robbery and trespass conviction. In fact, he paid $18.20 more than that, but Florida says he still has a balance due of $1.11 because of a 4 percent surcharge on restitution payments. On top of that, Mr. Miller owes $1,221 in court costs and fines, which he doesn’t have the money to pay. Ms. Nichols and Mr. Miller are two of more than 1.4 million Floridians with criminal records who have spent the last year Ping-Ponging between hope and despair over whether they can exercise their most fundamental constitutional right — the right to vote. Last November, nearly two-thirds of the state’s voters approved Amendment 4, a ballot initiative that erased Florida’s 150-year ban on voting by people with felony convictions, except for those convicted of murder or sexual offenses. It was one of the nation’s biggest expansions of voting rights in decades. Florida, which was one of just four states that imposed a lifetime voting ban, bars a higher percentage of its citizens from voting than any other state. The state also accounts for more than one in four citizens disenfranchised nationwide. But Florida’s Republican lawmakers decided Amendment 4 was too much democracy for their taste. In June, after thousands of formerly incarcerated people — including Jermaine Miller — had registered to vote, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law passed on party lines that effectively reinstates the ban for most of them, and for hundreds of thousands more people who had not yet registered.Full Article: Opinion | Why Are Florida Republicans So Afraid of People Voting? - The New York Times.
Louisiana: Officials say Louisiana will be ready for felon voting rights change | The Times-Picayune
State officials said Louisiana will be ready for a law change that will allow thousands of people convicted of felonies to vote as of March 1, although little information has been available about how the registration process will work. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who oversees elections, and Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc are responsible for making sure those impacted have their voting rights restored. They hadn’t met face-to-face to talk about the issue until last Friday (Feb. 8), but each said they are mostly on the same page about how to implement the new law, which the Louisiana Legislature approved last year. “We are going to implement it and we are going to be ready,” Ardoin said in an interview Tuesday.Full Article: Louisiana will be ready for felon voting rights change, officials say | nola.com.
Tennessee: Republicans, ACLU join forces to help more felons regain right to vote | Nashville Tennessean
Two Republican lawmakers, with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, are setting out to make it simpler for people with felony convictions to regain their right to vote, a process more arduous in Tennessee than in most states. Tennessee’s rights restoration laws are among the strictest in the country. It is one of 12 states that requires individuals with felony convictions to complete multiple steps beyond serving their sentence in order to have their voting rights restored, and is the only state requiring the payment of outstanding child support obligations in order to do so.Full Article: Tennessee Republican bill promotes voting rights for felons.
Tennessee lawmakers are considering a move to make it easier for some felons to get their voting rights restored. The legislation would lift the Republican-led state’s unique requirement for formerly incarcerated individuals to be up-to-date on child support before restoration of voting rights, in addition to other court fines and restitution. It would also aim to simplify the bureaucratic process for those people to get their rights back once they’re out of prison and off parole and probation. The legislation has made partners of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and Americans for Prosperity, who headlined a news event Wednesday touting the bill. Tori Venable, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said the legislation offers common ground for her group, at times perceived as right-leaning, and the ACLU, sometimes thought of as left-leaning.Full Article: Tennessee Considers Easing Felon Voting Rights Restoration | Tennessee News | US News.
Two Tennessee state lawmakers on Wednesday introduced bills to restore the voting rights of people with felony convictions after they serve their sentences. State Sen. Steven Dickerson (R) and State Rep. Michael Curcio (R) introduced bills in the state Senate and state House of Representatives, respectively. The bills restore “the voting rights of persons convicted of certain infamous crimes upon receipt of a pardon or completion of any sentence of incarceration,” according to a statement. Dickerson said the bill would exclude people who have been convicted of murder, aggravated rape, treason or voter fraud, but that all other felons would see their rights restored.Full Article: Tennessee lawmakers introduce bills to restore voting rights for convicted felons | TheHill.
It’s deadline day at the state capitol – and there’s a last-minute push to restore voting rights for felons here in Mississippi. … This latest effort centers around Mississippi ‘s constitutional lifetime voting ban if someone is convicted of a felony. Mississippi is one of only 3 states with a lifetime ban— crimes that can get you disenfranchised range from larceny to murder. One Mississippian who was convicted of a felony as a juvenile is a part of a lawsuit going after the state for this law. He says he deserves to be able to vote because he did his time, then stayed away from trouble and now he is trying to set an example for his young children.Full Article: Voting rights for felons considered at legislature.
Renee Brown-Goodell is not shy about introducing herself as a felon, a label she has carried without shame after spending more than four years in federal prison for a 2012 fraud conviction. But it still stings that she was forced to sit out the past two elections: Her right to vote remains out of reach until she completes her post-prison supervised release. “I’m out here and I’m expected to work, I’m expected to pay taxes and take care of my family and behave like a regular American citizen should behave,” Brown-Goodell said. “And yet I’m not a regular American citizen because you have stripped away my rights to be a regular American citizen.”Full Article: Push to restore felon voting rights in Minn. gains momentum - StarTribune.com.
Iowa: A constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights may hinge on requirement to fully pay restitution | Des Moines Register
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to amend the Iowa Constitution to automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons will face opposition from lawmakers who insist criminals must first repay all court-ordered restitution, legal and civil rights advocacy groups said. The proposal as currently written would restore voter rights to felons after they complete their sentence. More than 50,000 people would be affected. But some lawmakers have said felons should additionally be required to complete repayment of their court-ordered restitution before being allowed to cast ballots. No groups have registered in opposition to her plan. A legislative subcommittee will meet to discuss the issue for the first time Thursday at noon.Full Article: Felon voting rights: Iowa proposal faces opposition from hardliners.
Nearly 50,000 Californians currently on parole could regain the right to vote under a voting rights bill introduced on Monday. A group of Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a state constitutional amendment already coined the Free the Vote Act and are hoping to restore parolees’ voting rights in an effort to cut down statewide recidivism rates. Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, wants California to build on momentum gained last November in Florida where voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that restored voting rights to most felons who have completed sentences. He said that “roughly half of the states in the country are more progressive” than California in allowing felons and parolees the chance to vote, including Republican-led states like Maine, North Dakota and Utah.Full Article: California Bill Would Give Voting Rights to Parolees.
More than two weeks after Amendment 4 expanded voting rights to more than a million ex-felons in Florida, nagging questions over details persist. And as state officials wait on lawmakers for answers, advocates are getting frustrated. Some 45 people turned out for a panel discussion Saturday where activists celebrated the landmark law. But irritation simmered under the surface, rising when they couldn’t provide concrete answers to questions about eligibility and penalties. The amendment, passed in November’s general election, allows citizens who aren’t convicted murderers or sex offenders to register to vote as soon as they complete their sentences. Previously, a felony conviction meant lifetime disenfranchisement unless a person overcame long odds with the state’s clemency board. Now the problem is this question: what constitutes a murder conviction? Differences between charges have led lawmakers to begin debating which crimes outlined in the state’s homicide statute should exclude ex-felons from voting — to the chagrin of the law’s advocates.Full Article: Unanswered Amendment 4 questions frustrate felon voting rights advocates.
Florida: Legislature starts work on Amendment 4 with confusion over ‘murder’ exception | Tampa Bay Times
A key Senate panel on Tuesday began grappling with how to carry out a constitutional amendment that “automatically” restores the right to vote to felons who’ve completed their sentences. At the outset of the meeting, Senate Criminal Justice Chairman Keith Perry vowed not to have “any kind of hindrance or roadblocks” in implementing Amendment 4, approved by nearly 65 percent of voters in November. At the top of the to-do list for the committee: figure out the definition of “murder.” The amendment granted “automatic” restoration of voting rights to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.” The amendment excluded people “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.” But a 90-minute Criminal Justice Committee panel discussion Tuesday revealed confusion about the “murder” exception.Full Article: Legislature starts work on Amendment 4 with confusion over ‘murder’ exception | Tampa Bay Times.
Confusion reigned while lawmakers discussed the implementation of Amendment 4, the restoration of voting rights for certain felons who have completed their sentence. The tone and direction of the exchange in a Senate committee room Tuesday was just what proponents feared if lawmakers got their hands on the voter-approved initiative. Some Supervisor of Elections Offices began to register eligible felons on Jan. 8 although Gov. Ron DeSantis has urged them to wait until the Legislature clarifies implementation of the initiative during the upcoming session.Full Article: Amendment 4 questions stump Florida legislators.
Iowa: Reynolds’ proposal to restore felon voting rights requires probation, parole | Des Moines Register
Felons in Iowa would be allowed to register to vote after completing their prison sentences, probation and parole under a proposed constitutional amendment Gov. Kim Reynolds released Tuesday. Reynolds proposed restoring felon voting rights in her Condition of the State address last week. Iowa is one of two states that permanently bar felons from voting unless they successfully petition the governor or president to restore their rights. To be enacted, the proposal would need to pass the Legislature twice and then be approved by voters. “I do think Iowans are at a place that they believe that this is the right direction to go, but ultimately, they’ll be the ones to have a say in that,” Reynolds said.Full Article: Reynolds' proposal to restore felon voting rights requires probation, parole.
During his State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy voiced support for allowing convicted felons to have the right to vote after they’ve been released from prison and are on probation or parole. New Jersey law requires felons to complete their sentence and no longer be on parole or probation in order to be able to register to cast a ballot. Amol Sinha, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, supports the governor’s position. “I don’t think anybody should ever lose the right to vote in this state. If somebody is eligible to vote, they should always be eligible,” Sinha said.Full Article: NJ considers letting ex-cons on parole vote in elections.
New Jersey: Murphy Calls for Returning Right to Vote to Felons on Probation or Parole | NJ Spotlight
Gov. Phil Murphy wasn’t shy about patting himself and lawmakers on the back in his State of the State speech for making it easier both to register to vote and to cast a ballot. But he also wants to increase the number of registered voters by re-enfranchising felons on probation or parole, a controversial initiative. This marked Murphy’s first public support for the concerted effort, launched last year by a number of progressive advocacy groups and legislators, to undo a 175-year-old law that strips the right to vote from those convicted of serious crimes until they have completed their entire sentence. But the governor stopped short of fully embracing legislation — embodied in S-2100 and A-3456 — that would return the right to vote to those who are incarcerated. “Let’s open the doors to our democracy even wider,” Murphy said toward the end of his speech to a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday. “Let’s restore voting rights for individuals on probation or parole, so we can further their reentry into society. And we further their reentry into society by allowing them to exercise the most sacred right offered by our society — the right to vote.”Full Article: Murphy Calls for Returning Right to Vote to Felons on Probation or Parole - NJ Spotlight.
Some lawmakers in Tennessee are pushing legislation that would grant convicted felons a second chance at the right to vote. Currently, there are more than 400,000 convicted felons across the state of Tennessee who don’t have that right. But a bill put forth by Democratic State Senator Brenda Gilmore from Nashville could change that. “My view is if you want people to act civilized and be civilized, you have to treat them in a civilized manner,” said Democratic District 28 State Rep. Yusuf Hakeem.Full Article: Tennessee lawmakers introduce bill to restore voting rights to f - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports.
Gov. Kim Reynolds will propose a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to convicted felons in a Condition of the State address that highlights “the beauty of grace” and second chances. “Talk with someone who, by their own actions, hit rock bottom but decided to turn their life around,” Reynolds will say Tuesday, according to her prepared remarks, portions of which were shared exclusively with the Des Moines Register. “Watch their face light up when they tell you about the person who offered them a helping hand. … There are few things as powerful as the joy of someone who got a second chance and found their purpose.”Full Article: Reynolds to propose lifting felon voting ban in Condition of the State.
Florida: Amendment 4 leads to massive daily registration numbers for a non-election year | Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Bay treated Tuesday like a voting rights holiday. Or, more accurately, Tampa Bay treated Tuesday like it was a business day in September or October just weeks before a presidential election. Hillsborough and Pinellas counties processed a combined 872 applications to register to vote on the day, the first day Amendment 4 expanded voting rights access to most felons who had completed their sentences. You can look at that number in two ways. In one way, it’s tiny: There are likely more than 130,000 people who just gained their right to vote in those counties, according to a Times analysis. In another way, it’s enormous. There is no general election in 2019, and off-years rarely see a day where more than a few hundred people register to vote in the region.Full Article: Amendment 4 leads to massive daily registration numbers for a non-election year | Tampa Bay Times.
There is a proven fix for Iowa’s felon voting ban that has mistakenly rejected the ballots of law-abiding Iowans: Let felons vote once they’ve served their time, dozens of civil and legal groups say. It’s an idea Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ staff is reviewing with some key lawmakers in her party, a state senator said recently. Reynolds could make the change by executive order, but both the Republican senator and a Democratic House member said they want to look at legislative action to change the system in some way this year. “We need to talk about this in a way that gets rid of those pejorative attitudes about criminal reform that are just getting us stuck,” said Myrna Loehrlein, the chairwoman of a justice committee with the League of Women Voters of Iowa.Full Article: Iowa elections: Push is on to ease restoration of felon voting rights.
Kentucky has some of the nation’s highest rates of residents who can’t vote because of felony convictions — but a recent federal lawsuit is seeking to change that. The same national civil rights group that got a judge to declare Florida’s practices for restoring voting rights unconstitutional is targeting Kentucky’s restoration procedures. The suit, initially filed last year in U.S. District Court in Louisville by a single felon, was joined last week by the Fair Elections Center and the Kentucky Equal Justice Center. It was amended to add three more plaintiffs who argue Kentucky’s procedures for restoring voting rights are arbitrary and unconstitutional.Full Article: Federal lawsuit fights Kentucky's felon voter ban.