Florida amendment allowing felons to vote passes with help from Jewish groups

Cheryl Sanders
November 7, 2018

Under its terms, most felons will automatically have their voting rights restored when they complete their sentences or go on probation. Amendment 4 was one of 13 ballot initiatives that Floridians considered this year, but it has received the most national attention, as it enfranchises the largest population in US history since women's suffrage. Felons convicted of murder and sex offenses are explicitly excluded from the amendment.

More than 64 percent of Florida voters had cast ballots for Amendment 4, which is created to restore voting rights to an estimated 1.4 million felons who have completed their sentences.

Floridians voted Tuesday evening to restore the right to vote to some 1.4 million ex-felons in the state.

A number of major Jewish philanthropists contributed to the campaign, including George Soros, Seth Klarman and Stacy Schusterman.

A spokesman for Republican Governor Rick Scott said at the time that Florida's process for restoring voting rights to felons had been in place for decades and adhered to U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

"If we want people returning to society to be productive, law abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens", Freedom Partners Chairman Mark Holden wrote in his endorsement.

As black people are disproportionately represented among former felons, one in five black Florida voters are prohibited from voting due to a criminal record.

Per usual, the key races in Florida are nail biters.

Across the USA, a patchwork of laws impacts formerly incarcerated people from voting. "A US district judge found Florida's current system arbitrary and unconstitutional in March, and the case is under appeal", the Pensacola News-Journal reported on Tuesday evening.

The current system significantly affects African-Americans in the state: More than 20 percent of otherwise eligible African-American adults are unable to vote under this process.

Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia joined Florida in felony disenfranchisement, which dates back to the Reconstruction Era when many politicians sought ways to prevent African Americans from voting after the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870.

Florida has voted in favor of restoring felons' voting rights automatically on Tuesday night.

"The constitutional amendment the voters have now approved is not the end of this saga; it is more like the end of the beginning", declared Simon, vowing to work with whoever is elected governor "to ensure that Amendment 4 is implemented as intended by the Floridians who placed in on the ballot and voted to approve it-without delay and without imposing more burdens on the process to register to vote".

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