The fight to restore the vote to millions of presently disenfranchised Floridians has cleared a legal hurdle that increases the likelihood that the issue may be presented to statewide voters in 2018.
Backers of the proposal have gathered close to the 71,00 signatures needed for an amendment to be considered for addition to the state voting ballot. The proposal now must go in front of Republican Attorney general Pam Bondi for review and approval.
Florida has long been one of only three states that places a lifelong ban on voting rights for people previously convicted of any felony. Its estimated that more than 1.5 million people living in Florida–including 25% of all African Americans in the state–are banned from voting due to the law.
Critics have long said the law not only disenfranchises people who have paid their debts to society, but they say it also unfairly helps Republicans maintain a voting majority in a state that is heavily populated with minorities: many minority groups are often identified as preferring to vote Democratic.
The amendment would allow most convicted felons to have their voting rights automatically restored after they have completed their prison sentences and probation. Felons convicted of murder or a sexual offense would not be eligible.