More than one million ex-convicts in Florida have had their voting rights restored after voters overwhelmingly passed a new amendment to the state Constitution in the midterm elections.
The Miami Herald reports that an estimated 1.2 million former felons are now eligible to register to vote.
Under the previous law, anyone convicted of a felony was permanently barred from voting unless state executives restored their voting rights. Those seeking restoration would have to appeal to the clemency board, which had a backlog of 10,000 cases.
The amendment officially went into effect Tuesday after it was backed by more than 64 percent of voters in November.
The amendment requires that citizens have their voting rights automatically restored once they complete their sentence. Those convicted of murder or felony sexual offense are not eligible to have their rights restored under the new amendment.
Florida’s elections are about to change:
Prior to the amendment’s passage, more than 10 percent of Florida’s adult population was not eligible to vote, including more than 20 percent of black adults in the state.
“When you have a number of potential voters as large as that, the potential for change in Florida is theoretically enormous,” Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich told The Hill. “We’re a state where statewide elections, where millions of votes are cast, are decided by a few thousand votes.”
Details still need to be worked out:
Paul Lux, Supervisor of Elections in Okaloosa County and president of the state association of Elections supervisors, told NPR that there are still issues that need to be ironed out, like whether ex-felons can register to vote if they have outstanding court costs or restitution judgments. He said he also had questions about what types of violent crimes and sex offenses are excluded by the law, but predicted a fix soon.
"Whether its gets done by legislation, whether it gets done by administrative rule, or whether it gets done by the court, at some point," Lux says, "someone is going to have to clarify the process."
But Neil Volz, who helped organize the effort to pass the amendment, says he wants lawmakers to stay out of it.
"We don't think there's any role for politicians in this process. In fact, that was part of the role of Amendment 4, to get elected officials out of the business of picking their own voters,” he said.