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Midterms 2018

More Than One Million Florida Felons Earn the Right to Vote

Amendment 4's passage could have significant consequences for the Sunshine State's future elections after Tuesday's dramatic midterms

More than one million convicted felons in Florida earned the right to vote following Tuesday’s midterm elections when Floridians approved the Amendment 4 measure by securing the 60-percent threshold needed.

The measure that restores voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences — with the exception of those convicted of felony sexual offenses or murder — received approximately 64 percent approval from Floridians.

“Today is a new day in Florida, a new day in America, and a new day for 1.4 million Floridians,” ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said in a statement Wednesday.

“Over 60 percent of Florida voters took a stand for fairness and voting rights, and to remove an ugly stain that has been in our state’s constitution since the Civil War era.”

Simon lamented that Florida had “been an extreme outlier” with its previous “lifetime voting ban” as the “single most powerful voter suppression tactic in the country.”

Advocacy group Floridians for a Fair Democracy — which earned the more than one million petition signatures necessary to put Amendment 4 on the ballot in the first place — reacted joyfully to the election outcome.

Florida’s passage of Amendment 4 and the restoration of voting rights to convicted felons who have served their time could significantly impact the swing state’s future in 2020 and beyond — if they turn out and use these newly regained rights.

The Miami Herald reported on November 2 that 52 percent of the felons affected are Democrats, while 14 percent are Republicans. Approximately 33 percent of them have no affiliation or are independents.

The publication noted that Democrats compromise 37 percent of Florida’s entire voting population while Republicans make up 35 percent of it.

Both the gubernatorial and Senate elections in 2018 already had razor-thin margins, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) slight edge over incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) will be subject to a recount.

Florida Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis (R) narrowly defeated progressive Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) Tuesday by an approximate margin of less than 51,000 votes, according to The Associated Press.

Related: DeSantis Trumps Progressive Gillum in Close Florida Gubernatorial Race

President Donald Trump carried Florida by a thin margin of 1.2 percent during the 2016 presidential election against Hillary Clinton, with less than 120,000 votes separating the two candidates, according to RealClearPolitics.

Before Florida passed Amendment 4, the only way convicted felons who had served their time could regain their voting rights was by petitioning the state’s governor.

Related: Tuesday’s Drama Includes a Win for DeSantis — and for Giddy Pelosi and Disgraced Menendez

The Florida Commission on Offender Review found that just 3,005 of 30,000-plus voting rights restoration applications were granted under Scott’s governorship.

Prior to the amendment’s passage, Florida was one of 13 states that either issued a lifetime ban on voting for felons, required a governor’s pardon for felon voters, or required a waiting period before voting rights kicked in again.

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].