Come November, voting rights to more than 1 million former felons could be restored.
The Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, sponsored by the Floridians for a Fair Democracy, Inc., received more than 766,200 signatures, which is the requirement needed to have the initiative on the ballot, and will read “Voting rights shall be restored upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation” on the November ballot.
“Knowing that we’ve actually sent in over a million petitions and that people have answered the call to have a more inclusive democracy is just overwhelming,” Sheena Meade, organizing director for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, said to ThinkProgress. “People never thought we would get to this place, and now it’s actually here.”
The amendment, if passed with 60 percent of the vote, will restore “the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation,” according to the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections. But felons with murder convictions or sexual offenses will be excluded.
Florida, along with Kentucky, Virginia and Iowa, has strict disenfranchise laws, which were adopted in 1868 in an effort to limit black voting rights, that permanently bars felons from voting for life unless they seek clemency from the governor.
According to ThinkProgress, 1.6 million Floridians have had their voting rights stripped of them — about one in four African Americans.
The Sentencing Project states that “approximately 2.5 percent of the total U.S. voting age population — one of every 40 adults — is disenfranchised due to a current or previous felony conviction.” And, according to ThinkProgress, Florida “accounts for 27 percent of the disenfranchised population nationally.”
Many believe that if this amendment passes, it will reshape “electoral politics” in the swing state.
“We don’t care about how people vote,” Desmond Meade, who was convicted of a felony more than a decade ago, said to ThinkProgress. “We just care about them having the opportunity to vote.”