ACLU to Spend Millions in Florida to Reenfranchise Felons

People attend an ACLU event in Florida / Getty

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The American Civil Liberties Union intends to spend at least $5 million on a ballot initiative in Florida aimed at ending felon disenfranchisement.

The ACLU will back putting a "Voter Restoration Amendment" on Florida's ballot that was first announced four months ago, the Washington Post reports.

"It's going to be at least [a] $5 million commitment, maybe more," Faiz Shakir, the ACLU's national political director, told the Post. "We'll build through the end of the year, and to get the signatures we need to get on the ballot, we're looking at a million."

The ACLU will need to collect signatures from eight percent of Florida voters — 766,200 people — in at least 14 of Florida's 27 congressional districts. If they reach that threshold, they will need 60 percent of voters to support the measure at the polls in 2018.

Current Florida law prohibits anyone who has been convicted for a felony from voting. The amendment, if passed, would restrict that prohibition to only those currently serving prison terms for felony convictions, with exceptions for those convicted of murder and felony sexual offenses.

Shakir argued that Florida's felon disenfranchisement is a vestige of America's history of racial discrimination.

"The origin of this was Reconstruction-era legislators saying: Let's put in a measure to prevent African Americans from voting," he said. "We're coming up on 150 years later, and even after coming out of the system, former felons are deemed to be second-class citizens."

Florida currently disenfranchises 1.6 million felons, the highest rate in the country, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. For comparison, 5.85 million people were unable to vote in the 2014 midterm elections due to felon disenfranchisement laws.

Charles Fain Lehman

Charles Fain Lehman   Email Charles | Full Bio | RSS
Charles Fain Lehman is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He writes about policy, covering crime, law, drugs, immigration, and social issues. Reach him on twitter (@CharlesFLehman) or by email at lehman@freebeacon.com.

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