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A Pinellas County ex-felon touts his registration sticker after registering to vote under Florida's new Amendment 4.


Amendment 4 hints at wave of new voters in Hillsborough, Pinellas

On the day felons started registering under Florida’s newly approved Amendment 4, voter rolls in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties swelled by a considerable amount — more than 400 voters each. 

According to Supervisor of Elections offices, Hillsborough registered 434 people, Pinellas added 438.

Under Amendment 4, overwhelmingly approved by voters last November, nonviolent felons previously barred from casting ballots could begin registering to have their voting rights restored January 8.

Groups on both sides of Tampa Bay worked to get now-eligible voters back on the books.

Turnout appears to be high.

Of Hillsborough County’s total registrations, 204 were online, 162 registered at the DMV and 68 people registered in person at one of the supervisor’s offices.

The elections office said it was impossible to tell how many of those were registering because of Amendment 4, but its historical data shows there was a definite uptick in registration, which is likely attributed to the new constitutional amendment.

For example, during the entire month of January last year, there were half as many people who registered online than there were this Tuesday alone.

There were 509 in-person registrations throughout the entire month of January last year. That averages 24 per day during the 21-days offices were opened that month — a third the number that registered Tuesday.

That trend continues when considering DMV registrations. Last year in January, 2,684 people registered, which averages 127 per day offices were opened.

The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections did not immediately have a breakdown of where people registered on Tuesday or the historical data from last January but is working to compile that.

Those who registered Tuesday are not immediately eligible to vote; their applications could still be denied. Elections offices collect registrations and then send those to the Florida Division of Elections. There, records are reviewed and verified and then, if applicable, approved.

There have been questions about whether or not ex-felons who appear to qualify to have their rights restored under Amendment 4 will be able to do so right away. Conservatives in the Legislature have said the implementing language raises questions about who qualifies under the amendment and whether things like outstanding restitution owed would disqualify them. Lawmakers raising questions have said the Legislature should approve implementing language before adding voters to the rolls.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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