Florida Supreme Court Signs Off On Effort To Restore Voting Rights To Over 1 Million People

Nearly 21 percent of Florida’s African-American voting population can’t vote because of the law.

Florida’s state Supreme Court on Thursday approved language for a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would restore voting rights to felons after they complete their sentences.

More than 1.6 million Floridians can’t vote because the state strips felons of their voting rights unless they receive clemency and have their rights restored by the governor. With the state Supreme Court’s approval, activists will now have to work toward getting nearly 700,000 signatures on a petition in order to get the measure on the 2018 ballot.

If the amendment gets the approval of 60 percent of Florida voters, felons would be able to vote after completing their sentences, probation or parole. Individuals who committed murder or sexual offenses would still permanently lose their right to vote.

“We are very pleased that the Florida Supreme Court has approved the language for this important constitutional amendment,” Kirk Bailey, political director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said in a statement. “The language approved today reflects the belief that those who have committed crimes should be punished, but once they have fulfilled the terms of that punishment, they should be restored to full citizenship.”

“Florida is one of only three states with a lifetime ban on voting,” Bailey went on. “This amendment modernizes Florida’s criminal justice rules by bringing our state in line with others nationwide.”

Twenty-one percent of Florida’s African-American voting population can’t vote because of the law. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has made it more difficult for felons to get their rights restored.

“People with past convictions are living and working in Florida’s communities just like their neighbors,” Kwame Akosah, an equal justice fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement. “They should have a second chance to participate in their democracy and make their voice heard.”



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