LISTEN LIVE

felon voting rights

Amendment 4 restored voting rights to more than a million Florida residents with a felony conviction.

Calling the process “an administrative nightmare,” a federal judge on Tuesday urged the Florida Legislature to revamp a state law aimed at carrying out a constitutional amendment that restores voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.

A federal judge is considering whether Florida lawmakers exceeded their authority by requiring former felons to pay fines and settle other legal debts as a condition of regaining their right to vote.

Newly filed court records are shedding light on the closely watched federal court case relating to voting rights for people with felony convictions. Several groups filed lawsuits against state and local officials after Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law tying the right to vote to paying all the fines and fees related to a felony conviction.

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Flickr

Florida's Republican governor on Friday asked the state's high court to rule on whether convicted felons must pay all fines and fees before getting their voting rights restored in a move that competes with ongoing litigation in federal court on that same question.

Under an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida counties will be required to provide Spanish and English ballots.
Roberto Roldan / WUSF Public Media

By Associated Press

As a group of felons challenge a new Florida law that requires them to pay all fines and fees before getting their voting rights restored, their attorneys say they need a court decision well before this fall's off-year elections.

DeSantis To Sign Felons’ Voting Measure

May 8, 2019
Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he will sign a controversial measure that would require repayment of financial obligations before felons’ voting rights are restored. 

Desmond Meade and Neil Volz, who work for a political committee that propelled the amendment to victory in November, called the measure “disheartening” and “disappointing.”
News Service of Florida

With two men who’ve become the faces of Amendment 4 watching from the gallery, Florida lawmakers passed a controversial measure that would require repayment of financial obligations before felons’ voting rights could be restored.

Prison bars
Michael Coghlan/Wikimedia Commons

Legislation putting into law a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to some Florida felons has won approval by a state Senate committee. 

Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who narrowly lost his bid in the gubernatorial race last year, has launched a push to register 1 million Florida residents to vote before the 2020 presidential election.

Public commenters gave lawmakers an earful today when the implementing bill for 2018’s Amendment 4 came up in a House committee meeting. The amendment allows certain felons to vote. But that raises the question which felons can’t vote?

Hookers who’ve been convicted of prostitution three times, cyberstalkers and inmates who expose themselves to prison workers wouldn’t be eligible to have their voting rights automatically restored, under a House proposal aimed at carrying out a constitutional amendment approved in November.

Meaning Of 'Murder' Key In Felons' Voting Rights

Jan 23, 2019

A key Senate panel on Tuesday began grappling with how to carry out a constitutional amendment that “automatically” restores the right to vote to felons who’ve completed their sentences.

At the outset of the meeting, Senate Criminal Justice Chairman Keith Perry vowed not to have “any kind of hindrance or roadblocks” in implementing Amendment 4, approved by nearly 65 percent of voters in November.

At the top of the to-do list for the committee: figure out the definition of “murder.”

Like many Floridians who have been convicted of a felony, Clarence Office, 61, was excited to register to vote on January 8, when the state’s Amendment 4 went into effect.

Nearly one and a half million felons who have served their sentence regain the right to vote in Florida on Tuesday. The voting rights are being restored as a new amendment to the state constitution goes into effect.

Mary Shedden/WUSF

More than a million people could soon be added to Florida's voting rolls.

In November, voters approved a constitutional amendment which automatically restored voting rights to felons, with the exception of those convicted of sex offenses and murder.

With Amendment 4 going into effect in less than a week, there are parts of the process of restoring the voting rights for convicted felons that appear to have not yet been considered, said incoming Democratic state Senator Jason Pizzo. He said it could potentially throw a wrench into the rights restoration process.

Beginning Jan. 8, more than a million new people may be able to register to vote in Florida. They're convicted felons who have served their sentences and finished their parole or probation.

In November, voters in the state overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to felons in Florida, convicted murderers and sex offenders excluded. It was one of the few remaining states to automatically restrict felons' ability to vote.

Court Battle Over Felons' Rights Could End

Dec 21, 2018

Though debate continues to swirl about carrying out a newly approved constitutional amendment, a fierce legal battle about how Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Cabinet members have handled restoration of felons’ rights could be close to ending.

When Will Amendment 4 Be Implemented?

Dec 16, 2018

More than one million felons in Florida are supposed to be able to register to vote in a little over three weeks. 

Amendment 4 —the ‘Voting Restoration Amendment’ — was approved by 65 percent of voters on Nov. 6, amending the state constitution to return the right to vote to most felons after they’ve served their sentences. It goes into effect January 8.

12/14/2018: Felon Voting Rights Next Steps

Dec 14, 2018

Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment restoring the voting rights of most felons, but with just weeks before it goes into effect, there’s no clarity on how it will be implemented.

With its passage on November 6, Amendment 4 granted over a million felons across the state the right to vote.

Florida is one of the strictest states when it comes to restoring the right to vote for people with felony convictions.

Former felons do not automatically get the right to vote back after they’ve served their time. That's  1.5 million Floridians who cannot vote.

Amendment 4 would automatically restore the right to vote for former felons except for people with murder or sex crime convictions.

It has wide bipartisan support and very little organized opposition, though some candidates have stated they are not in support of an automatic restoration process.

Florida is one of only a few states that doesn’t automatically restore voting rights to felons who’ve completed their sentences. The fight goes back years and it's been waged both in court and in the court of public opinion. Now, voters themselves have the chance to weigh in with Amendment 4. It  would automatically restore rights to most felons. But there are exceptions that’s created a divide inside the main group pushing hardest for the change.

Jagada Chambers was sent to prison for attempted second-degree murder in 2000. The story, as he tells it, was that he was on spring break with friends during college and got into a physical altercation with an acquaintance.

He was released four years later, in August 2004, and his understanding was that his voting rights were gone forever.

As Gov. Rick Scott’s Cabinet meets for its last clemency board meeting before the state’s general election, the conversation surrounding felon voting rights is ramping up. One amendment on the ballot could put a new restoration system in place.

At Florida's Capitol in Tallahassee, four times a year, dozens of anxious people gather to hear a decision that will affect the rest of their lives. Felons whose sentences and probation are complete stand before the governor and other Cabinet members to ask for clemency and the restoration of their right to vote.

After waiting for years, Joanne Calvarese made her case to the clemency board in June.

"I feel that I have paid my consequences," Calvarese said. "I know I don't deserve your mercy, but I beg you for it."

As an appellate court reviews an appeal by Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet in the battle for a new rights restoration scheme for felons, protesters rallied at the Capitol Thursday. Civil rights leaders urged support for a citizens’ initiative amendment on the ballot in November.

Federal District Court Judge Mark Walker has issued a deadline for Gov. Rick Scott to establish a new process for restoring ex-felons’ voting rights: April 26. 

ProCon.org

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Florida to devise a new way to decide when and how former prisoners can get their voting rights restored, saying Gov. Rick Scott and state officials can no longer rely on "whims, passing emotions, or perceptions" in that process.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker also blocked the state's current system of forcing most ex-felons to wait at least five years before they can ask to have their voting rights restored.

The system was put in place back in 2011 at the urging of Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Pages