Voting rights restored to former felons in Florida, but lawmakers may add legal hurdles
On Tuesday, Amendment 4, a new Florida state law, went into effect and restored the voting rights of over 1 million with felony charges. During the midterm November elections, 65% of all Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which would grant the voting rights to people who completed their full sentences except for those charged with sexual felonies or murder.
While the restoration of voting rights overturned a Jim Crow-era law that was intended to prohibit Black Americans from voting, many Florida election supervisors say they are unsure of the law’s implementation. Though many Floridian civil rights groups are providing education initiatives, legal questions on the pathway to restoration of voting rights remain unclear.
CNN reports Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux said, “I haven’t spoken to anyone who has plans to not register anyone starting tomorrow, but I wish we had better guidance.”
All returning citizens will be able to register to vote but are responsible for completing all prior requirements to be eligible. Requirements include fines, completion of sentence, parole and other necessary conditions.
Lux warns that confusion on the legal specifics may put individuals who have not fulfilled all requirements at risk of perjury. “I won’t be able to provide guidance to these people because I don’t know either,” he said.
However, Melba Pearson, deputy director of the ACLU of Florida, urged individuals with felony convictions to reach out to civil rights groups, such as the ACLU.
Pearson stated, “It’s very clear and unambiguous on its face.”
The New York Times reports Florida governor, Ron Desantis, told reporters on Monday, “The people spoke on it. But I think it’s got to be implemented the way that the people intended. And I don’t think that they wanted to see any sex offenders fall through the cracks.”
Desantis’ call for additional legal hurdles on top of requirements for the completion of a sentence may further complicate the pathway for many individuals.