A felony conviction in Florida can lead to serious legal penalties, including: imprisonment, expensive fines, a life-altering criminal record, and more. In fact, prior to the 2018 midterm election, Florida was one of four states that permanently disenfranchised citizens with past felony convictions. While the governor had the power and authority to restore a former felon's right to vote, it was only ever utilized in about 1% of presented cases each year. According to German Lopez, a writer for Vox, “Florida had disenfranchised more potential voters than any other state, with more than 10 percent of all potential voters and more than 21 percent of potential black voters in Florida unable to vote due to felony records.”
In February 2018, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker scathingly rebuked Republican Governor Rick Scott, the architect of the 2011 system, by stating, “In Florida, elected, partisan officials have extraordinary authority to grant or withhold the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people without any constraints, guidelines, or standards…The question now is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It does not.”
Fortunately, in a historic move, Floridians voted 65% in favor of Amendment 4 (the Florida Constitution, Article VI, Section 4) which states that “voting rights shall be restored upon completion of all terms of sentence, including parole or probation.” Many view this amendment as the greatest single act of enfranchisement since women were granted the right to vote in 1920.
The Significance of Amendment 4
On December 8, 2018, over 1 million Florida residents with felony convictions regained the right to vote. Going forward, any former convicts who have completed the terms of their sentence (including parole and probation) can register to vote online or at their local election office without petitioning the state clemency board. However, this measure doesn't apply to anyone convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses.
This is an incredible opportunity for many residents who have been living as model citizens since serving their time. As of January 8, 2019, voter registration applications are available to anyone eligible to register. According to Huffpost, anxious Republican lawmakers “suggested it be put on hold until the state legislature reviews its language. Organizers behind the amendment have insisted, however, that it is self-executing and neither the governor nor lawmakers may alter it.” The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is encouraging potential voters to call 877-My-VOTE-0 if they have any questions.
Have Questions? Contact an Experienced Legal Representative
This amendment is expected to provide many important opportunities to the residents of Florida. However, felon disenfranchisement laws vary on a state-by-state basis. If you have any questions or concerns, contact the Bellevue criminal defense attorneys at Stein, Lotzkar & Starr, P.S. Our legal team has a comprehensive understanding of fluctuating state and federal laws and can help you review your legal options.
We've been serving the East Side and Seattle area for 30+ years! Contact Stein, Lotzkar & Starr, P.S. at (425) 559-9449 to schedule a free consultation.