Florida to Give Former Felons the Franchise

Felons who have completed their sentence will see their rights to vote returned

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Floridians voted Tuesday evening to restore the right to vote to some 1.4 million ex-felons in the state.

Felons who have completed their sentence, including parole and probation, will see their rights to vote returned by state constitutional amendment, the Hill reported. Felons convicted of murder and sex offenses are explicitly excluded from the amendment.

The proposal, Florida Amendment four, required 60 percent of voters' support to pass; several polls in the days leading up to the election indicated that the amendment had met that threshold.

Prior to Tuesday evening, three states—Iowa and Kentucky in addition to Florida—fully and permanently disenfranchised former felons, according to the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice. A further eight states provide for partial disenfranchisement. The Sentencing Project estimated that as of 2016, some six million people were precluded from voting by virtue of their felon status.

Florida's ex-felons are overwhelmingly Democrats, according to an analysis published by the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald in the run up to the election, with a margin of three-to-one compared to Republicans. In a state with razor-thin partisan margins such as Florida, the addition of more than a million Democratic voters may have a significant impact on the balance of future elections—the Herald noted that outgoing governor and Senate candidate Rick Scott won both of his elections to the governorship by a mere 60,000 votes.

Scott had previously worked to re-enfranchise felons on a case-by-case basis (prior to the passage of Amendment 4, former felons could obtain re-enfranchisement contingent on the assent of the governor and his cabinet). Scott only restored rights to 10 percent of felons who applied for re-enfranchisement; as of October first, there was a backlog of more than 10,000 pending applications.

The burden of disenfranchisement also fell most harshly on black voters, according to the Times/Herald analysis. Black voters were five times as likely to lose votes as white ones.