Home / News / Florida May Restore Voting Rights to 1.7 Million Ex-Felons: So Long, Republicans!

Florida May Restore Voting Rights to 1.7 Million Ex-Felons: So Long, Republicans!

Photo Credit: Andrew Cline / Shutterstock

Of the states that swung to Donald Trump in 2016 after voting for Barack Obama in 2012, Florida, with its 29 votes in the Electoral College, was by distant the biggest. It’s also one of the many distinguished examples of how voter termination efforts are distorting the domestic system, customarily to advantage Republicans who would onslaught to win in a some-more representative democracy. Florida’s law bans anyone convicted of a felony from voting, for the rest of their lives. This means that nearly 1.7  million Floridians — more than one in 10 voting-age adults — are permanently barred from the polls.

Hillary Clinton lost the Sunshine State by fewer than 120,000 votes, strongly suggesting that some-more thorough voting rights law could — and substantially would — have swung Florida in the other direction.

Now a organisation of grassroots activists with Floridians for a Fair Democracy and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is operative to change the law. Activists have been present a statewide petition to create a list beginning in Nov 2018 that would revive the rights of those convicted of a transgression to opinion after they have finished their sentence. The campaign is on lane for success, at slightest in getting the initiative on the ballot. With one month to go until the deadline, nearly 85 percent of the ballots required to attain have been sealed by Florida voters.


While Trump’s slight and improbable electoral feat has drawn courtesy to the issue of voter suppression, for many operative on the campaign it’s reduction about electoral politics and some-more about basic issues of integrity in the rapist probity system.

“These people have all finished their time, they’ve paid their debt, and it’s the right thing to do,” Jen Tolentino of Rock the Vote, which has been ancillary the grassroots activists in Florida, told Salon. “Once somebody has served their time, they should have the ability to actually be reintroduced to the village and attend in a suggestive way.”

“If you have a automobile note or a debt payment, once you compensate that last payment, you don’t design to keep getting a check in the mail,” said Desmond Meade, who is heading the statewide campaign to re-enfranchise ex-felons. “These folks paid their debt years and years ago, nonetheless they’re still being finished to compensate on the debt that they’ve already paid in full.”

Meade has a personal tie to this issue, as someone who was convicted of a transgression some-more than a decade ago. After being expelled in 2004, Meade told Salon, he had a formidable duration that enclosed homelessness, drug obsession and suicidal impulses. Despite all those challenges, he made a indicate of going to college and then getting a law grade so he could dedicate his life to open service. But even yet Meade went by the strenuous routine of trying to recover his right to opinion by appealing to the administrator for clemency, he was denied.

“My wife ran for bureau last election cycle,” he added. “And in annoy of all I’ve finished to spin my life around, we was still not means to opinion for her.”

Florida’s permanent disenfranchisement of convicted felons “really was a Jim Crow law that was adopted in 1868,” explained Samuel Sinyangwe of StayWoke, which is also ancillary the campaign.

Historians have documented that felon disenfranchisement laws were drafted in the years following the Civil War with the demonstrate goal of disqualifying black electorate who had only recently won voting rights. Original versions of the laws would mostly privately dwindle felonies that lawmakers believed black people were some-more likely to be convicted of, while incompatible felonies seen as some-more likely to be committed by whites. That inclination persists today, with black people some-more likely to be arrested, convicted and cruelly sentenced than white people who dedicate the same crimes.

These laws have never had anything to do with shortening crime, Sinyangwe forked out.

“There is no justification that holding divided people’s right to opinion disincentivizes people from committing crimes,” he said, adding that it’s “just not a consideration” on people’s minds when they select to mangle the law. 

On the contrary, Sinyangwe argued that this is “part of a broader review about re-entry and replacement and reconstruction of people” who have done their time. Preliminary investigate indicates a correlation between re-enfranchisement and lower recidivism, yet some-more needs to be finished to magnitude voting rights alone as a factor. 

“While it is formidable to infer that replacement of the authorization directly reduces crime rates,” Erika Wood of the Brennan Center wrote in a 2009 report, “allowing voting after recover from bonds affirms the returning village member’s value to the polity, encourages appearance in county life, and so helps to reconstruct the ties to associate adults that motivate law-abiding behavior.”

Activists are optimistic, not just about the chances of getting the beginning on the ballot, but of winning the right to opinion for ex-felons in November.

“A lot of folks know how easy it is in Florida to get a transgression conviction, and a lot of folks realize, but by the beauty of God, they weren’t one of the ones that got convicted or got caught,” Meade said. He combined that he has oral to thousands of people “from Pensacola to Key West” and finds that most have a clever clarity of “what emancipation is all about.”

There is not much open polling accessible on this issue, but what is out there backs up Meade’s experience. A 2012 check conducted by Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota found that four-fifths of Americans support restoring voting rights after a person has finished a sentence. Rasmussen Reports found identical numbers in 2014, with 65 percent of respondents identical that one should recover voting rights on judgment completion.

The trend in many states has been toward liberalization. Florida is one of the few outliers with an across-the-board anathema on ex-felons for what seem to be nakedly narrow-minded reasons. The stream governor, Republican Rick Scott, actually finished it harder for ex-felons seeking indulgence to do so, even yet his some-more assuage Republican predecessor, Charlie Crist, had postulated indulgence to some-more than 150,000 petitioners.

If the beginning wins and the electorate overrule Scott’s efforts, Sinyangwe said, it will “demonstrate to the republic the energy of the people to residence these things when their domestic institutions exclude to,” and may good inspire identical efforts in other states. 

Meade, too, is optimistic. “Voting is the purest form of citizenship that there is,” he said. “When you consider about getting that ability back, it’s a extensive feeling.”


Amanda Marcotte is a politics author for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte. 

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