The main backer of a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore some felons’ voting rights after they complete their sentences told Florida Politics his effort now has collected over 900,000 signatures.
“Knowing that we set the goal of collecting 1 million, the fact that we are less than 100,000 petitions away from our goal is an amazing attestation to the growing energy, excitement, and support around second chances,” said Desmond Meade, chair of Floridians for Fair Democracy and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, in a Tuesday email.
Initiatives need 766,200 valid signatures for ballot placement. Signatures must be spread across Florida’s 27 congressional districts, with the total number due pegged to voter turnout in the most recent presidential election.
According to the ballot summary, “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.”
Former state Senate Democratic Leaders Arthenia Joyner of Tampa and Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale separately filed the proposal with the Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to put it directly on the ballot.
During his term as Florida governor, then-Republican Charlie Crist worked with Cabinet members Alex Sink and Charles Bronson to push through restoration of rights for more than 150,000 non-violent felons. That process was quickly halted by Gov. Rick Scott when he took office in 2011.
Current law requires Florida convicts to wait years after they complete their sentences to apply for rights restoration through the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of Scott and members of the Cabinet.
“This news has increased my level of excitement about what’s happening in Florida, and it has definitely increased my confidence that the desire of Florida voters to have this issue on the ballot will become a reality,” Meade said. “In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am extremely thankful for the tremendous efforts of the grassroots, and the diversity of the growing support to this campaign.”