It took over 150 years but Florida voters have put to rest a disgraced vestige of the state’s ugly slavery history: Florida’s ban on ex-felons being allowed to vote has been struck down.
In a tally that ultimately saw 64% support for approving Amendment 4, a constitutional amendment that restores the right of non-violent ex-felons to vote, voters sent a clear message in Florida, one of only 3 states that permanently barred felons from casting a ballot: it was time to give folks a second chance.
All constitutional amendments in Florida require a minimum 60% support to pass.
Amendment 4 saw a range of individuals, groups, and organizations on both sides of the political spectrum join in on the effort to raise voter awareness about the amendment.
Die-hard Republican groups largely stayed unexpectedly silent on the amendment when it became clear that a majority of their own voters along with voters of every ethnic group and political persuasion supported the amendment, which goes into effect immediately.
From a political standpoint, the new reality is Florida voters just added more than a million brand new voters to the rolls–a potential game-changer that opens the door to political power to over a million new voters, mostly White, but also a significant number of African-Americans and Hispanics as well.
The vast majority of these new voters are likely to vote Democratic, which could mean once easy local Republican victories around the state could quickly become contested affairs where more diverse voices would have to be listened to by candidates and officeholders alike.
For instance, races for critical justice system offices–such as local judgeships, sheriff, state attorney and public defender–could now be decided by a number of voters who know first hand how heavy-handed the state’s criminal justice system can be.
Some criminal justice experts said the passage of Amendment 4 could eventually lead to a revisit of controversial, minimum mandatory sentences in Florida as well, and overall reform of the state’s criminal justice and correctional system, which Democrats and civil rights groups have long argued for, but did not have the political power to initiate.
That hurdle was put away tonight.
From a national standpoint, the 2020 presidential and congressional elections have now instantly become much more competitive in Florida as well since political strategists predicted the passage of Amendment 4 could potentially turn Florida into a firm “blue” state–just in time for President Trump’s reelection effort.