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What Role Will Lawmakers Play in Restoring Felons’ Right to Vote?

November 21st, 2018 by Jake Stofan

5.1 million Floridians voters supported automatic restoration of a felons’ right to vote after they’ve paid their debts to society.

Lawmakers are already contemplating how to ensure more than million newly enfranchised Floridians don’t face obstacles while trying to register.

Just under 65% of voters who weighed in on Amendment 4 voted yes.

The language is straight forward, felons can vote after they’ve served their time and paid their fines, but Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley says it’s not that simple.

“I would probably tend to recommend to voters that, be patient and wait a bit,” said Early. “Don’t come to our office right now and try and register to vote because we don’t have the data.”

How Supervisors will ensure felons are qualified to register to vote is still something that needs to be sorted out.

“We need to streamline the verification process and allow the Supervisors to quickly verify whether someone is allowed to register,” said CRC Commissioner and former State Senator Chris Smith.

Clemency Lawyer Reggie Garcia argues the state can green light those who qualify for rights restoration with data it already has.

“There’s a current data base of convicted felons who can’t vote and that’s the exact list who arguably can now vote on January 9th with the exception of anyone convicted of murder or a sex offense,” said Garcia.

It’s unclear how the more than 1 million newly enfranchised people will impact the outcome of Florida’s historically close elections and what, if any, influence they might have on the agenda of the Legislature.

Prison reform is a hot button issue in the state.

A new voter base with personal ties to the criminal justice system could create momentum.

“And our President is even talking about criminal justice reform,” said Smith. “So I think this is the year to finally try and get something like that done.”

How may felons register to vote and what party they register with will be something both parties will keep a close eye on.

The Legislative session doesn’t begin until March, but bills have already begun being filed.

So far no proposals related to Amendment 4 have been put forward.

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