2018 Florida Amendment 4
|Florida Amendment 4 (2018)|
|Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative|
|Date||November 6, 2018|
|Elections in Florida|
Florida Amendment 4, also the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, is an amendment to the Constitution of Florida passed by ballot initiative on November 6, 2018, as part of the 2018 Florida elections. The proposition restored the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment does not apply to Floridians convicted of murder or sexual offenses.
The campaign was sponsored by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, and had support from the American Civil Liberties Union, Christian Coalition of America, Freedom Partners, and politicians of the Democratic Party. Republican politicians opposed the amendment. Amendment 4 passed with 64.55% of voters in favor. On January 8, 2019, an estimated 1.4 million ex-felons became eligible to vote.
After the abolition of slavery in the United States, Florida enacted Black Codes, which restricted freedoms for African Americans and led to mass incarceration. The 1868 Florida Constitution enacted felony disenfranchisement, a ban on voting for felons even after completing parole and probation, disproportionately impacting African Americans. Though other Jim Crow laws, such as education requirements, were repealed in successive constitutions, felon disenfranchisement continued.
In 2016, 6.1 million adults in the United States could not vote due to felony disenfranchisement laws. In 2018, Florida was one of four U.S. states that enacted permanent felony disenfranchisement, affecting 1.7 million felons. Felons must wait five to seven years after the completion of their sentence before they can apply to have their voting rights restored by the State Board of Executive Clemency, which is composed of the Governor of Florida and the Florida Cabinet, and meets four times per year at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida. Florida's disenfranchised felons constituted 10% of the adult population, and 21.5% of the adult African American population.
As Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist reformed the process for the reinstatement of voting rights in 2007, allowing non-violent offenders to have their voting rights automatically restored. Over 155,000 applications for voting right restoration were approved during Crist's four year term. Shortly after succeeding Crist as governor, Rick Scott, with the advice of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, ended the automatic restoration for felons convicted of non-violent crimes in the state and instituted a mandatory five-year wait period before felons could apply to the State Board of Executive Clemency for restoration of voting rights. During the first seven years of Rick Scott's tenure, 3,000 applications were approved.
Seven former felons filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida in March 2017. The plaintiffs in the case, Hand v. Scott, alleged the process is unconstitutional due to its arbitrary nature. In April 2018, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker ruled that Florida's process for seeking restoration of voting rights in Florida was unconstitutional because it relied too much on personal appeal to Governor Scott. The state appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which stayed Walker's ruling pending appeal. An analysis conducted by The Palm Beach Post demonstrated that Scott discriminated against African Americans in re-enfranchisement hearings and favored Republicans.
Desmond Meade, who was convicted of a felony and earned a law degree after his release, became involved in voting rights after his wife ran for the Florida Legislature and he could not vote for her. He became the head of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition in 2009. He led a signature drive to qualify Amendment 4 as a ballot initiative for the 2018 Florida elections, collecting 799,000. The initiative was approved in January 2018 for the November ballot. The amendment required 60% of the vote to take effect.
The FRRC partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Christian Coalition of America during the campaign. Democratic Party candidates for office, including Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham, supported Amendment 4, while Republican politicians, including Ron DeSantis, Adam Putnam, and Richard Corcoran, opposed it. Freedom Partners, a nonprofit group funded in part by the Koch brothers, also supported the amendment.
Florida Amendment 4 (2018)
|Registered voters and turnout||13,200,872||60.43%|
The amendment went into effect on January 8, 2019, making an estimated 1.4 million people with felony convictions eligible to register to vote.
Amendment 4 was written to not require implementation by the Florida Legislature. The Florida Division of Elections stopped running applicants through the criminal database in December. DeSantis, who defeated Gillum in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial election, stated his belief that the legislature must pass a law to allow the Division of Elections to verify the eligibility of each applicant. Bill Galvano, the president of the Florida Senate, is of the opinion that it is "self-executing". Dennis Baxley, who chairs the state senate's committee on ethics and election, filed a bill in the legislature to increase the required threshold to amend the constitution from 60% to two-thirds.
- "Initiative Information". Florida Division of Elections. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
- Lopez, German (November 6, 2018). "Florida votes to restore ex-felon voting rights with Amendment 4". Vox. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
- "'Our Voice Will Count.' Former Felon Praises Florida Passing Amendment 4, Which Will Restore Voting Rights to 1.4 Million People". Time. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
- "Florida voters approve Amendment 4 on restoring felons' voting rights". Miami Herald. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
- "Florida ex-felons can begin registering to vote as Amendment 4 takes effect". CBS News. September 18, 1927. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
- "Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Florida". Brennan Center for Justice. November 7, 2018.
- "What would happen if 6.1 million felons could vote in the 2016 US election? — Quartz". Qz.com. October 6, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- "Felons In Florida Want Their Voting Rights Back Without A Hassle". NPR. July 5, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
- Annika Hammerschlag (January 15, 2018). "Florida's felon voting ban dates back to Jim Crow". Naples News.
- Peter Wallsten (March 8, 2011). "Fla. Republicans make it harder for ex-felons to vote". Washington Post.
- Dara Kam (February 25, 2011). "Florida's new GOP attorney general aims to undo automatic restoration of felons' rights". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
- "Scott, clemency board do away with automatic restoration of rights for felons". Palm Beach Post. March 9, 2011. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- "Florida ex-felons challenge voting rights restrictions in lawsuit". Reuters. March 13, 2017. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
- Hand v. Scott, Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, University of Michigan Law School.
- "Judge strikes down Florida's system for restoring felons' voting rights". Tampa Bay Times. February 1, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
- Jim Saunders (April 4, 2018). "Florida appeals U.S. judge's ruling on restoring felons' voting rights". Palm Beach Post.
- "Rick Scott wins round as appeals court blocks rejection of felons' voting rights system". Tampa Bay Times. April 25, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- Lulu Ramadan, Mike Stucka, Wayne Washington (October 27, 2018). "Florida felon voting rights: Who got theirs back under Scott?". Sarasota Herald. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
- Steven Lemongello (January 23, 2018). "Floridians will vote this fall on restoring voting rights to former felons". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
- "Inside the Unlikely Movement That Could Restore Voting Rights to 1.4 Million Floridians". Mother Jones. October 6, 2016. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
- "Where they stand: Candidates for governor on vote for felons | Tampa Bay Times". Tampabay.com. January 30, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- Andrew Pantazi (October 19, 2018). "Gillum, DeSantis present contrasting views on criminal justice". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- "Koch-funded group supports voting rights for felons in Florida". Tampa Bay Times. September 13, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- Steve Bousquet, Steve Contorno & David Smiley (December 4, 2018). "Confusion clouds restoration of Florida felons' voting rights". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
- David Smiley (January 7, 2019). "Still unclear how Florida government will handle Amendment 4". Miami Herald.
- "Sen. Dennis Baxley wants to make it tougher to change Constitution | Tampa Bay Times". Tampabay.com. January 5, 2019. Retrieved January 11, 2019.