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Felon voter restoration initiative close to making 2018 ballot, supporters say

The committee hoping to put a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot that would automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent Florida felons is inching closer to the signature quota required to place an amendment on the ballot.

Floridians for a Fair Democracy says it submitted more than 1.1 million signatures to various supervisors of elections during the week between Christmas and New Years. The minimum number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot is 766,200.

According to the Division of Elections website, 745,461 signatures have been verified. That means the state needs to verify just 21,000 more signatures over the next two weeks before the Feb. 1 deadline.

Organizers are confident they will reach that objective.

The group raised $547,855 last month and at the beginning of January had slightly more than $340,000 to spend this month to get the necessary signatures.

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Florida’s current law permanently strips felons of the right to vote and other civil rights, including serving on a jury, running for public office and sitting for the state bar exam. Only three other states in the union – Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia – have similar laws.

There are approximately 1.68 million ex-felons in Florida who have not had their voting rights restored after serving their prison sentence, according to The Sentencing Project, a voting rights advocacy group.

“We never lose sight of the fact about what this movement is all about. It’s about people,” said Desmond Meade, the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) and chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, on a conference call Tuesday night.

“At the end of the day, our campaign is not driven on how we think people will vote, but rather not if they have the opportunity to vote after they paid their debt to society,” Meade added.

If the measure does make it to the ballot, it will need support from 60 percent of voters in November to become law.

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Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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