In the aftermath of the midterm elections held last week, Florida voters
approved Amendment 4 which automatically restored the voting rights of
convicted felons once they complete their sentences (i.e. prison term,
parole, and probation). However, those convicted of murder and felony
sex crimes are excluded from regaining their right to vote.
Approximately 1.5 million Florida residents—10 percent of the state’s
adult population—are unable to vote due to a previous felony conviction.
In recent years, ex-felons interested in regaining their voting rights
had to appeal to the governor and his Cabinet to do so.
When Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, only 3,000 Floridians regained
their voting rights. During Democrat Charlie Crist’s four-year term
as governor, over 150,000 state residents had their voting privileges restored.
Back in February, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker declared the state’s
procedure for restoration of a felon’s voting rights was unconstitutional.
According to the process, ex-felons had to wait as long as seven years
to apply, not including several more years when reviewing the application.
Even after all that time, getting a governor’s pardon and their
voting rights restored was far from certain.
African Americans will benefit the most from this amendment since they
are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated. Based on a report by
the Sentencing Project, approximately 18 percent of black voters—418,000
out of 2.3 million—couldn’t vote because of a felony conviction
in 2016 alone.
According to the Associated Press, 64 percent of state residents agreed
to restore the voting rights of felons. The ramifications of Amendment
4’s passing could have a significant influence on future elections
since Florida is a major swing state due to its extremely tight voting results.
Iowa and Kentucky are the only two states that ban people from voting after
residents completed their felony sentences. Only Maine and Vermont allow
people to vote with a criminal record—and even when in prison. Felons
lose their rights only when incarcerated in 14 other states and Washington
D.C., while they lose their rights until their sentence is complete in
22 other states.
Law Offices of Robert Stepniak, we understand the importance of your right to vote. If you are facing
a felony conviction, let our
Daytona Beach criminal defense attorney protect your rights and future by either getting your case dismissed,
your penalties reduced, or your criminal record expunged.
For more information about legal services,
contact us and schedule a free consultation today.