Voting restoration amendment has 900,000 signatures - Florida Politics

Voting restoration amendment has 900,000 signatures

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.

The Florida Division of Elections website showed as of the end of Tuesday that the citizen ballot initiative, known as “The Voting Restoration Amendment,” has 442,969 verified signatures.

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.”

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

6 Comments

  1. If you’re not willing to follow the law then you should not have a role in making the law which is what you do when you vote. Voting rights can be restored but not automatically— the felon to show first that he or she has turned over a new leaf. After all, the unhappy truth is that most of those leaving prison will be returning.

    1. You are absolutely correct. How can we expect people returning from prison to integrate back into society, and become productive members of society, when after serving their sentence for whatever crime they committed we impede their ability to become productive members of society? The reason for sentencing someone to prison is to correct their errors and prepare them to return to society. If we strip them of their ability to participate in the voting process, we have taken away their ability to become an productive member of society. We already don’t allow felons to rent, hold office, own guns, and consider them undesirable. Why would someone who it treated that way become a productive member of society. You say they shouldn’t have a right to have a role in making the law. The right to vote does not give you the ability to create laws. The legislator creates laws, not the people. We vote on constitutional amendments, not statutes. I hope you look into how easy it is for someone to become a convicted felon. As an example, if you are married and decide to leave your wife, but don’t file for divorce immediately, you commit a felony of the third degree. Fla. Stat. 856.04. Possessing a new or salvaged airbag from which the manufacturer’s part identification number has been removed, altered, or defaced is a felony of the third degree. Fla. Stat. 860.145.

    2. I’ve been without a felony for 20 years. I am a family man, multiple business owner, and offshore supply boat Captain that is licensed through the US Coast Guard. I still have not been able to have my rights restored. That’s ok to you?

  2. You sir Mr Clegg are a Felon yourself and a hypocrite. I know you. I know what you did and God knows also. How dare your throw stones when your house is made of glass. To go further, most people are indeed felons deep in their hearts in those dark places where they know their own sins. The only difference is a prosecutor did not file a charge against them for a variety of reasons.. could be privilege , race or etc. Or, perhaps they/you had the money to buy your way out. But , because i know you. I can just say, look in the mirror sir. each day we learn of so called upstanding citizens who are rapist or child molesters. Look in the mirror sir, and read the book of Genesis about who we all are. You know what you did.

  3. In 38 states, voting rights are automatically restored when a felon has served their prison sentence, finished their parole, and finished their probation. Of those 38, 14 of them automatically restore the right to vote once they finish their prison term. I think Florida should join these 38 states because you shouldn’t have to lose your right to vote forever, even after paying your debt to society. Especially after a governor decides to make it incredibly hard to get the right to vote back.

    Side note: two states (Vermont and Maine) allow for felon to vote while in prison.

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