Florida added 1.4 million possible voters to the rolls when it passed Amendment 4, which said most felons will automatically have their voting rights restored when they complete their sentences and probation.
“This was not a political vote. It was a vote of love,” said Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the non-profit group that spearheaded to put the amendment change on the ballot.
Convicted sex offenders and those convicted of murder are exempt. The measure needed 60 percent of the vote Tuesday to pass; it received 64 percent of the vote.
Supporters said the state’s current system was too difficult and arbitrary. It required felons to wait at least five years after completing their sentence before they could file a request with the governor and Cabinet — who then considered the requests individually.
Florida’s long been considered “ground zero” for disenfranchised felons by voting rights groups.
Of the 6.1 million disenfranchised felons in the U.S., about 1.7 million live in Florida — the most of any state, Mauer said. Only 12 states disenfranchise people for a felony conviction after they’ve served their sentence, he said.
Voting rights advocates say there are about 1.7 million former felons in Florida, and about 1.4 million people will be able to vote. Nearly all states allow felons to vote after completing their sentences.
“I’m thrilled that the people of Florida finally brought the state out of the 19th century and into the 21st century,” ACLU Florida Director Howard Simon said.
Many political watchers on both sides have wondered how this group of people will affect the hotly contested 2020 election.
“The battle for the hearts and minds for those 1.4 million voters has officially begun,” said Neil Volz, also of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.
He added that about a third of the 1.4 million people affected are African American. The largest percentage of disenfranchised felons are white, he said.
“Every community is impacted by this,” said Volz.