Recent polls have shown about 70% voter support for Amendment 4, the option on the 2018 Florida ballot that aims to restore voting rights to the nearly 1.7 million people in the state who are disqualified from voting.
Election Day is November 6th but early voting is already underway by means of absentee or vote-by-mail ballots.
Florida is one of only 3 states that permanently takes away voting rights from persons convicted of felons; Iowa and Kentucky are the other two.
That means 47 other states–a clear and vast majority–allow felons to vote in the United States.
The ban on felon voting rights didn’t happen by accident: it is rooted in the era immediately following the end of slavery, and the ban was essentially enacted to penalize and disenfranchise newly-freed Black men, who were often targeted for excessive or unwarranted prosecution, then convicted of crimes that would ultimately result in a felony conviction that would take away their voting power.
The result is in 2018, even states such as Mississippi and Arkansas–which featured extremely ugly and well-documented incidents of racial violence and oppression during the post-slavery and Jim Crow periods, now have fairer voting rights laws than Florida.
The restoration of voting rights has been linked through research to greater civic engagement by former felons, and a reduction in crime stats as well.
A restoration of voting rights for nearly 1.7 million disenfranchised people has significant political consequences in Florida: most of that number are White Floridians, but a significant minority of that equation are Black and Latino Floridians. Welcoming so many new voters, many of whom are poor and persons of color, to the voting booth could mean a drastic electoral recalibration; previously safe Republican seats could become contested.
And candidates who otherwise have won elections while simultaneously ignoring mass segments of the population would have to campaign for every vote, and finally justify their position on important policies that impact every Floridian.
That fact hasn’t been lost on Republican politicians across the state, who have come up with a number of implausible excuses as to why the amendment isn’t a good thing.
Republican leaders have also been alarmed by the fact that some polls have even shown a majority of their own voters supporting fairness and the adoption of Amendment 4.
While voting rights groups and Democrats statewide believe the momentum is on the side of supporters of Amendment 4, they are encouraging voters to nonetheless not let up: Vote YES and don’t even THINK about sitting this election out.
Election Day is November 6th.