Vote YES on Amendment 4: Voting Restoration Amendment
· Florida is one of only 4 states with a lifetime ban on voting for citizens with a felony conviction, unless they are among the very small percentage that receive clemency. (The other states are Kentucky, Iowa, & Virginia.)
· In most states, citizens convicted of a felony automatically regain the right to vote upon completion of their sentence. (Maine and Vermont never revoke the right to vote.)
· Nearly 1.5 million Floridians cannot vote because they are former felons. This represents roughly 10% of the total voting-age population of Florida.
· In Florida, citizens convicted of a felony can apply for their voting rights to be restored, BUT they must wait 5 - 7 years after completing all terms of their sentence before they can even apply to the Executive Clemency Board, and for those needing a hearing, it is at least 2-3 more years before their case is heard.
· Many former felons cannot afford the expensive (and complicated) application procedures.
· The Executive Clemency Board (Governor, Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner, and Chief Financial Officer) has total control over whether to approve an application. They do not have to provide any reason for their decisions, and their decisions are not subject to either legislative oversight or judicial review. Thus, applicants often are approved or denied arbitrarily.
· In fact, on February 1, 2018, US District Court Judge Mark Walker ruled that Florida's process for restoring voting rights to felons is unconstitutional because it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
· The current clemency rules, which Governor Rick Scott issued in 2011, are more restrictive than most prior administrations. Since 2011, Governor Scott has restored voting rights to fewer than 3,000 ex-felons. In contrast, Scott’s predecessor, Governor Charlie Christ, restored voting rights to more than 150,000 in only 4 years, and Governor Jeb Bush restored voting rights to almost 75,000 in 8 years.
· The only way to permanently protect voting rights, and ensure that they are not subject to the biases of whatever administration is in power, is to amend the State Constitution.
· Amendment 4, if approved by Florida voters in 2018, will restore the voting rights to former felons upon completion of all terms of their sentence, including probation or parole. This amendment would NOT apply to those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses.
· Studies by the Florida Parole Commission show that people returning from prison who can vote are less likely to commit crimes in the future.
· Restoring a person’s right to vote gives them an opportunity for redemption and a chance to participate in and give back to their community. It’s about FAIRNESS.
· Vote YES on Amendment 4 and bring Florida in line with the rest of the country!
Prepared by Tallahassee League of Women Voters. Sources include: Desmond Meade and Floridians for a Fair Democracy; Brennan Center for Justice; ACLU of Florida; Ballotpedia; & NBC News Feb 2, 2018.