67,000 Ex-Felons Registered To Vote In Florida After Amendment 4 Controversially Struck Down: Report

Depicted in pic: Protesters in support of Florida’s Amendment 4.
Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times/LAWRENCE MOWER

According to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, slightly more than 67,000 people with felony convictions registered to vote after an Atlanta-based federal Appeals Court invalidated Amendment 4–the ballot amendment restoring the rights of former felons that was approved by about 2/3 of Florida voters in 2018.

The number stands in stark contrast to the estimated 1.5 million people in Florida the Amendment could have impacted, but Desmond Meade, the man who previously served time in prison but is the founder and leader of the Coalition, says the number is a “victory”.

Former felon Desmond Meade and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, left, arrives with family members at the Supervisor of Elections office Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Orlando, Fla., to register to vote. Former felons in Florida began registering for elections on Tuesday, when an amendment that restores their voting rights went into effect. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

“There is no doubt in my mind that there are thousands upon thousands of energized and inspired returning citizens throughout the state that will not be denied, that will be a voice, and will have an impact in determining who wins Florida,” Meade told reporters on the first day of early voting in the Sunshine State.

Florida first banned people with felony convictions from voting immediately after the Civil War, when freed slaves abandoned their chains only to run into so-called “Blue Laws” and other racist measures throughout the South that opened the door for racial profiling and an uneven justice system that disproportionately impacts Black people.

Incidentally, though Black Floridians account for barely 15% of the state’s overall population, they represent nearly half the state’s ever-growing prison population.

After Amendment 4 was overwhelmingly approved by voters, Republicans quickly went to work undermining the law, including filing litigation, culminating in a controversial move by Republican-appointed judges on the 11th Circuit Court to strike down the law, upholding Gov. Ron Desantis’ and Republican legislators’ decision to require felons to pay fines and restitution in before being allowed to vote–even though the state has no clear system of determining who owes fines and who doesn’t.

Opponents have labeled those efforts voter suppression and the mandate to pay before voting a “poll tax”.

The fear of prosecution is likely to cause apprehension in the minds of some felons who may not even know if they owe fines, making them afraid to register, since some Republicans have suggested felons who try to vote and owe fines could be later arrested and charged with election fraud–a felony.

Republicans now face accusations that their legal maneuverings are designed to suppress minority votes with the goal of making it easier for unpopular Republican President Donald Trump to win the state in next month’s election.

Polls show Trump locked in a close battle in Florida. Political analysts say Florida is a must win for Trump’s efforts to win a second term in office.

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