One of the major issues on the ballot for Florida voters on Tuesday was Amendment 4, which would restore a former felon’s right to vote in elections if they had already served their full sentence and were not convicted of murder or sexual crimes.
Where’s what the new amendment actually says:
This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.Advertisement - story continues below
Before this ballot initiative passed, felons in Florida could only have their rights restored by appealing to the governor. However, in February a federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional to leave this decision to the sole discretion of a partisan politician. During his two terms in office, former Gov. and now Sen.-elect Rick Scott had restored the voting rights of roughly 3,000 felons who had served out their sentences. His predecessor, Democrat Charlie Crist, had granted this right to 150,000 felons during his single term in office.
CNN, citing data from the nonprofit Sentencing Project, estimates that this new ruling could make 1.5 million more people eligible to vote. To put that in context, 13 million Floridians registered to vote for the 2018 midterm elections. 64.47 percent of the 7.9 million people who voted on this measure voted in favor of it. This amendment received support both from liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, and rom Freedom Partners, which is funded by libertarian billionaire Charles Koch.
This is one of those issues that a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle are split on. Many folks, both Democrat and Republican, feel that if you commit a felony there are serious, long lasting consequences, which includes the forfeiture of the right to have a say in who governs you and what kind of laws are passed.
Others feel that every human being has a God-given right to decide who governs over them, regardless of whether or not they may have made some bad choices in the past.
At the core of the issue is whether or not a human being should be punished indefinitely for making a one time mistake. These are individuals who didn’t commit violent crimes. Should they be denied the right to vote forever due to that one offense?
Or have they paid their debt to society and thus should be restored as full citizens? It seems more consistent with conservative values to say that a person who has paid their debt to society and didn’t commit a violent crime should be restored to full citizenship.
If rehabilitation is really the goal of prison time, that’s the only outcome that makes sense.