Much to our eternal chagrin, Floridians did not elect Andrew Gillum as governor of their deservedly designated simple-minded (and often repressive) state. However, on Election Day, they did vote “yes” on Amendment 4, a citizen-proposed ballot initiative that will enable more than one million ex-felons to regain their voting rights, potentially changing the political landscape in a major swing state.
“Amendment 4 automatically reinstates voting rights for people with felony convictions upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole and probation,” reports CNBC. (Those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense are excluded but can individually petition the state to regain their voting rights).
CNBC also reports that while Florida voters were just about evenly split in their choices for governor and senator, the ballot initiative was able to garner more than 60 percent of the vote necessary to pass.
Prior to this, Florida’s process was far too onerous for convicted felons, according to criminal justice advocates. It required those who served time for felony convictions to wait at least five years after completing their sentence before they could file a request with a committee of elected officials that includes Scott, who had the individual power to approve or dismiss any appeal. Pacific Standard reports that even those who completed this arduous process faced a backlog of 11,000 cases and “a battery of extremely personal questions.”
Florida, in particular, had a particularly high number of ex-offenders who were disenfranchised. Prior to Tuesday’s vote, 1.6 million Florida residents were unable to vote, which is 10 percent of the state’s total adult population and 20 percent of all black residents.
Nearly all states in the United States allow felons to vote after completing their sentences save three, which permanently ban them from voting: Kentucky, Virginia, and Iowa; which means that Florida may be crawling out of the mucky backwater it’s known for (on another note, PBS reports that Floridians apparently also approved a measure aimed at phasing out greyhound racing in the state, “the last stronghold of the sport in the U.S.”)
Perhaps if Amendment 4 were passed last year, Andrew Gillum would be walking into the governor’s mansion today; yet, as is the mantra of my people: Ever forward, never back.
That is, we’ll be back.