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.Full Article: Restoration of voting rights by felons marks shift in Florida | TheHill.
Florida: ‘I became somebody’: Former felons register to vote in Florida through Amendment 4 | Miami Herald
For the past 25 years, Anthony Bushell has served as his community’s unofficial Election Day chauffeur, transporting the elderly and homeless to and from polling places for local, statewide and federal races. And every election, while the voters Bushell ferried cast their ballots, his criminal record has kept him on the political sidelines. His last vote came in the 1992 presidential election for Bill Clinton, who was then the governor of Arkansas. On Tuesday, Bushell walked out of the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Office a newly registered voter, one of several formerly incarcerated Floridians to register to vote after the passage of constitutional Amendment 4, which restored voting rights for an estimated 1.2 million felons — as many as 400,000 of those in South Florida, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis.Full Article: Felons register to vote in Florida. | Miami Herald.
In Louisiana, criminal offenders released from prison often linger in the purgatory of parole for years, or even decades, stripped of key civil rights. Because the Bayou State only restores voting rights to felons who complete probation or parole, some who get caught up in the system die before regaining the franchise. Those are the people whom state Rep. Patricia Smith wanted to help last year. Smith introduced a bill to restore voting rights to felons who’ve been on parole without problems for five years after their release from prison, as well as those who are on probation for five years. After three rounds of revisions, the bill passed the House in a squeaker of a vote, sailed through the Senate, and was signed into law as Act 636 by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) last May. But in December, stories started appearing in the local press suggesting that the law may apply to many more people than the 2,000-3,000 it was expected to affect. The actual number, according to advocacy groups and state prison officials, may be more like 36,000.Full Article: What The Heck Is Going On With Felon Voting Rights In Louisiana? – Talking Points Memo.
Florida: State Set to Restore Voting Rights to Felons Amid Threats of Lawsuits | Wall Street Journal
Some Florida officials are balking at the state’s new amendment restoring voting rights to about 1.4 million people with felony records that is set to take effect Tuesday. Amendment 4, which Florida voters passed in November with nearly 65% support, re-enfranchises felons who have completed all terms of their sentences, including probation or parole, but doesn’t apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses. Opponents, including Republican Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, say before the amendment can be implemented, the legislature needs to pass a bill to clarify its terms and fulfill its intent. Supporters say it should be implemented immediately. The disagreement is generating confusion and the threat of lawsuits. The measure produced the largest expansion of voting rights in the U.S. since the 26th Amendment reduced the voting age to 18 in 1971. It could have significant implications in a state where elections often are decided by paper-thin margins.Full Article: Florida Set to Restore Voting Rights to Felons Amid Threats of Lawsuits - WSJ.
Florida: ‘A joyous day’ ahead as 1.4 million Florida ex-felons have voting rights restored | The Washington Post
One of the largest enfranchisements of U.S. citizens in the past century begins Tuesday in Florida, and many of the more than 1.4 million ex-felons set to regain their voting rights here are treating the moment as a celebration. In Tampa, one group is renting buses to register en masse at the county elections office. Others will be live-streaming on Facebook as they march in. Demetrius Jifunza, convicted as a teen of armed robbery, is now a father and pastor who wants to make his daughters proud. “It’ll be a joyous day,” Jifunza said of the trip to the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office, a journey made possible when voters in November overturned Florida’s 1868 ban blocking residents with felony convictions from automatically having their voting rights restored once they served their sentences. In the run-up to Tuesday, the organizations and volunteers who worked for the past decade to pass the amendment to the state constitution have been ramping up their efforts to encourage ex-felons to quickly follow through. There’s a toll-free number, 877-MY-VOTE-0, and a website with tips.Full Article: ‘A joyous day’ ahead as 1.4 million Florida ex-felons have voting rights restored - The Washington Post.
Next Tuesday, more than a million ex-felons will get their chance to register to vote again. This comes after more than 60 percent of Florida residents voted to approve Amendment 4 in November giving felons convicted of non-violent crimes who have served their time and paid all court fees the right to vote. Prior to Amendment 4, felons had to wait at least five years after completing their sentence before they could file a request to restore their voting rights with the Florida governor and Cabinet. About 1.5 million people are affected. Nearly all states allow felons to vote after completing their sentences. However, some ex-felons worry there may be a delay in restoring their voting rights after Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis told the Palm Beach Post last month that the amendment should take effect after lawmakers meet in March and pass “implementing language” in a bill that he signs.Full Article: Florida's convicted felons worry red tape will delay restoring....
Beginning Jan. 8, more than a million new people may be able to register to vote in Florida. They’re convicted felons who have served their sentences and finished their parole or probation. In November, voters in the state overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to felons in Florida, convicted murderers and sex offenders excluded. It was one of the few remaining states to automatically restrict felons’ ability to vote. But the incoming governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, some state lawmakers and election officials say they need to weigh in on the amendment before any changes are made. “It says that voting rights ‘shall be restored.’ I don’t know what is unclear about that,” says Howard Simon, who was the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida for decades before retiring last month. He helped draft the ballot amendment and calls it “self-executing.” Meaning — no one has to touch it.Full Article: More Than A Million Florida Felons Aren't Sure Yet Whether They Can Register To Vote : NPR.
The Sentencing Commission Wednesday voted to once again get behind any bill that would restore voting rights to parolees, who are still serving their sentences. The commission also backed the measure last year — but it never came up for a vote in either the House or Senate. Outgoing Department of Corrections Commissioner Scott Semple, who is also a Sentencing Commission member, said allowing parolees to vote is an “important step in their return to a normal and productive life.” The bill didn’t receive much attention last year in the midst of the budget crisis that dominated most of the session, but it was a priority for the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.Full Article: Sentencing commission says parolees should vote - Connecticut Post.
When Florida voters approved a sweeping ballot initiative last month to restore the voting rights of some felons, advocates rejoiced in the expectation that more than a million people would soon have the chance to add their names to the voter rolls. Now, a fight is brewing between the broad coalition of civil and voting rights groups that backed the measure and some state and local officials who argue that lawmakers must shape its implementation given the wide-ranging nature of the initiative. That has raised concerns among some of the measure’s supporters that any action by opponents could lead to legislation that lingers in the state Capitol, months after they expected it to begin. The growing uncertainty over how — and when — the measure, known as Amendment 4, will take effect has stirred confusion among county election officials and raised the prospect of a bitter legal dispute over the voting rights of roughly 1.4 million people convicted of felonies.Full Article: Fight brews over felons’ voting rights in Florida | TheHill.
When Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature approved a new law last spring restoring voting rights to former felons still under supervision, it was expected to give around 2,200 people the right to vote starting next March. Now, advocates and elected officials are saying the number could be as many as 36,000. Officials were aware the new law would restore voting rights to people living in the community on parole with no problems for five years after they have been released from prison. It was also acknowledged that it would benefit people who are on probation for five years. Those groups combined are fairly small, only a couple thousand people, according to the Louisiana Department of Corrections. But legislators, advocates and prison officials are now saying the law might also apply to the vast majority of people on probation — including those under supervision for fewer than five years — who have had their voting rights suspended. Natalie LaBorde, deputy commissioner with the Department of Corrections, confirmed the revised estimates.Full Article: New Louisiana law could allow tens of thousands on probation to vote | nola.com.
Elections officials across Florida say they expect former felons to flock to their offices to register to vote next month when a newly passed ballot initiative launches one of the largest enfranchisement efforts in modern U.S. history. But partisan politics and logistical questions are clouding the Jan. 8 rollout of a state constitutional amendment that could restore voting rights to more than 1 million ex-felons in Florida. Democrats and voting rights advocates cried foul this week when Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, a Republican and critic of the measure known as Amendment 4, said the Republican-controlled state legislature must first pass a law to implement its changes.Full Article: Politics cloud felon voting rights restoration in Florida | Reuters.
Florida: Lawmakers might not give voting rights back to felons, even though 64% of voters want them to | Business Insider
Florida lawmakers might not be ready to put Amendment 4 — a measure approved by 64.5% of Florida voters that would give voting rights back to most felons who have completed their sentences — into action. According to WFTV 9, a local news station in Florida, the state has put enforcement of the amendment on pause until the new governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, is sworn in. WFTV reported that lawmakers are waiting to see if the Florida Legislature might need to weigh in on the measure. The amendment, which would restore voting rights to more than 1.5 million felons, does not call for any involvement of this kind. In Florida, 23% of African-American adults cannot vote due to a previous felony conviction. Amendment 4, the measure that would change that, received wide support among residents in a state with strict clemency laws. It was scheduled to take effect on January 8.Full Article: Florida lawmakers stall process to restore voting rights to felons - Business Insider Deutschland.
Florida: Ron DeSantis says Amendment 4 should be delayed until he signs bill from lawmakers | Tampa Bay Times
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.Full Article: Ron DeSantis says Amendment 4 should be delayed until he signs bill from lawmakers | Tampa Bay Times.
Florida voters spoke clearly four weeks ago: They restored the right to vote to most convicted felons who complete their sentences. When it becomes Florida law in five weeks, an estimated 1.2 million felons will be eligible to rejoin the voter rolls. But at a statewide elections conference Tuesday, it was obvious that confusion and uncertainty still hovers over implementation of Amendment 4. The state announced that it has stopped transmitting documents counties use to remove convicted felons from the rolls. One official said the issue requires more research on how to carry out the will of the people. “The state is putting a pause button on our felon identification files,” Division of Elections director Maria Matthews told election supervisors from most of the state’s 67 counties at a mid-winter meeting. “We need this time to research it, to be sure we are providing the appropriate guidance.”Full Article: Confusion clouds restoration of Florida felons’ voting rights | Tampa Bay Times.
Kentucky is one of two states that permanently ban people with felony convictions from voting. It’s enshrined in the state constitution. The only way to restore voting rights is to appeal to the governor. Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, said he will propose a constitutional amendment to allow voting rights to be restored to some people who have completed their felony sentences. “When the constitution was written in Kentucky a lot of these crimes weren’t even felonies. We’ve made them that since then. So it’s not like the constitution intended to deprive people of their voice and their own community for the rest of their lives for a simple mistake,” McGarvey said. McGarvey said the legislation, which hasn’t been finalized yet, will likely still ban people who have committed voter fraud or crimes that involve violence or sexual assault.Full Article: Ky. Lawmakers To Consider Restoring Voting Rights To People With Felonies | WVXU.
Kentucky: Bill to restore voting rights of Kentucky felons expected to be pre-filed this week | WDRB
On the heels of Florida voters deciding to reinstate voting rights to felons that have served their sentences, Kentucky could soon face a similar debate with new legislation expected to be filed this week. Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey, of Louisville, expects to pre-file a bill that would restore voting rights to convicted felons once their sentence, including probation and parole, is complete. “When they have a job and they’re living and working in our community, they need a voice in that community,” McGarvey said. “That voice comes at the ballot box.” With the passage of Florida’s bill, Kentucky and Iowa became the only states in the country that do not restore voting rights in some manner at the completion of a sentence. In Kentucky, felons can only have the right restored via an executive pardon from Governor Matt Bevin.Full Article: Bill to restore voting rights of Kentucky felons expected to be - WDRB 41 Louisville News.
Iowa: Should Iowa restore voting rights to 52,000 felons? Advisory board pushes proposal. | Des Moines Register
Iowa felon voter rights should be restored, a legislative advisory board recommended Wednesday. It’s a proposal that could affect about 52,000 Iowans. After Florida voters on Nov. 6 approved an amendment to their state’s constitution that automatically restores the voting rights of felons who’ve completed their sentences or go on probation, Iowa and Kentucky are the only remaining states that permanently ban all felons from voting unless the governor individually restores their rights. “Iowa has been a leader on a whole range of civil rights issues; this is not one of them. Iowa is in the back of the line on this one,” Daniel Zeno, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, said Wednesday to Iowa’s Public Safety Advisory Board.Full Article: Should Iowa restore voting rights to 52,000 felons? Advisory board pushes proposal..
Amid the recounts, recriminations and allegations of voter suppression or ballot fraud, something else happened in Tuesday’s elections — a wave of actions aimed at making voting easier and fairer that is an often-overlooked strain in the nation’s voting wars. Floridians extended voting rights to 1.4 million convicted felons. Maryland, Nevada and Michigan were among states that made it easier to register and vote. Michigan, along with Colorado and Missouri, limited politicians’ ability to directly draw, and gerrymander, district lines. Utah, where votes are still being tallied, appears poised to do the same. It was as if states around the country were pulled in two directions at once — with measures aimed at broadening voter participation coming on the heels of recent laws and regulations making it harder to register and vote. Still, for all the charges and countercharges on voter suppression, most of the momentum Tuesday was on measures quite likely to broaden voter participation and limit gerrymanders.Full Article: Before the Fights Over Recounts: An Election Day Vote on Voting - The New York Times.
Kentucky: Locked out: Critics say it’s time to end Kentucky’s ban on felon voting | Louisville Courier Journal
Last week’s election held personal stakes for Sara Lee. A Louisville mother of four planning to finish a master’s degree after battling addiction, Lee wanted to vote for candidates who could improve health care, education funding and women’s rights. But Lee’s 2013 felony drug conviction — for which she completed seven months in jail — meant the 37-year-old couldn’t cast a ballot. It left her watching on the sidelines. “I feel like I don’t have a voice,” she said. Kentucky has long had some of the nation’s highest rates of felony disenfranchisement — taking away voting rights because of a crime conviction. Nearly one in 10 residents — and a nation-topping one in four African-Americans — are barred from voting for life because of felony convictions, according to the Washington D.C.-based Sentencing Project.Full Article: Voting rights: Kentucky among last to permanently ban felons.
Voting rights activists are celebrating after voters in three states approved sweeping election reforms in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Voters in Florida, Michigan and Nevada all passed major reforms to their states’ election systems, which will make voting easier and extend ballot access to millions of new voters. Florida’s Amendment 4, approved by 64 percent of voters, will restore voting rights to more than 1 million residents convicted of certain felonies. About 10 percent of Florida adults will be newly eligible to vote, of which a disproportionate number are African-Americans. Meanwhile, Nevada and Michigan both passed automatic voter registration measures Tuesday, meaning residents in future elections will be added to voting rolls when they obtain or renew a driver’s license or conduct other business with the state, unless they opt out.Full Article: Three States Pass Sweeping Voting Rights Expansions.