Bad news for felons who want to vote: House passes controversial bill on Amendment 4

Tampa Bay area Republican Rep. Jamie Grant making his concluding argument on Amendment 4 bill

The Florida House approved a bill late Wednesday that is expected to limit the number of former felons who will be eligible to vote following the passage of Constitutional Amendment 4 last fall.

The vote was 71-45.

Amendment 4, passed by more than 64 percent of Florida voters, said that the voting rights of all former felons – with the exception of those charged with murder or a sexual felony offense – would automatically get their voting rights restored when they complete “all terms” of their sentence.

The House bill says that completion of a sentence includes full payment of any fines or fees imposed by the court as part of the sentence. Supporters of the Constitutional Amendment say that the bill is “self- implementing,” meaning it does not require additional language to be imposed by the Legislature.

But Republicans disagree.

“Without a piece of legislation, it is impossible to make Amendment 4 work,” said Rep. Jamie Grant, the GOP sponsor of the bill who represents a part of the Tampa Bay area.

In fact, County Supervisors of Elections and the Florida Secretary of State’s office told legislators in January that they needed clarification to determine when former inmates have fully completed their sentences to be eligible to vote. Governor Ron DeSantis also said before the session started that the amendment needed clarification legislation.

The law went into effect on January 8.

The House debated the bill Tuesday night, and again on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Democrats proposed a number of amendments, all of which were defeated.

Rep. Mike Gottlieb, a Democrat from Broward County and a practicing criminal defense attorney, proposed that financial obligations should not be a barrier to voting.“The bill continues to disenfranchise people,” he said.

“Returning citizens should all be treated the same, regardless of financial status,” Gottlieb said.

Rep. Evan Jenne, a Democrat from Broward County, offered an amendment that allowed for felons who owe fees, fines or restitution to go on a payment plan. It too was defeated.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House debated the measure for another three hours, with Democrats sensing distrust and concerns about distorting the will of voters.

“This is why society doesn’t trust elected officials,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee from Miami. “Because they send us here to do one thing, and we do a totally opposite thing. And we do it under the guise of clarity.”

Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat from Broward County, said, “The people spoke. And what are we doing now? We’re coming here and we’re playing with it,” he said. “What makes you think that Floridians should trust us when they speak?”

The Senate has yet to vote on their version, where there are some differences from the House bill. It had yet to be scheduled as of early Wednesday evening.

 

 

 

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Democracy is being choked to death by members of the Florida House. Every inch of state and federal law should be utilized to repel this attack on the freedoms of American citizens.

  2. “ALL TERMS” is very straight forward, understandable. It did not read, “most Terms”. Why are elected officials wasting valuable time trying to shoe-horn in a loop-hole and misinterpret the word, ALL? Would-be felons knew before they got caught at that time, they would lose their right to vote. What a GIFT to have restoration! Only after ALL terms, including financial, community service, etc are completed. Shervin Jones’ statement is the most profound statement made publically by a Representative in ALL of modern times. It’s crazy, like trying to cheat ALL TERMS to speed up restoration for the Cheaters! How crazy!

  3. Total Bull Shit. The writings on the wall Republicans. Your time is over your day is done. Nothing can stop the tide that’s coming.

  4. This amendment is a sign of an impending move toward American dysfunction and 3rd world status politics. How does anyone think that former felons influence on an election has a probability of making said elected officials less corrupt? How is a society in which the majority of voters become people who are inclined to want get things for free will make your community better? This is an attempt for more votes and it is the same for immigration, the Demo(n)-cRats have devolved into a party of takers and redistributors to the lazy and the needy only for the benefit of getting a % of the money that flows through them. Yes, you will get some things but they are doing it to line their pockets and eventually this Ponzi like government philosophy will destroy America. They don’t care about America at all, they will flood this country with illegal voters, voting felons, voting prisoners even. Mark my words, this country could become a lawless hellhole.

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