Florida may not know how to give the right to vote back to newly-enfranchised felons

Amendment 4
Excerpt from 1885 Florida Constitution. Photo edited and used with permission. Credit: State Archives of Florida.

Questions, concerns and some confusion has arisen now that voters have approved a Constitutional Amendment to restore voting rights for thousands of Florida felons who have done their time.

It’s even unclear whether the Florida Legislature needs to weigh in how Amendment 4 goes into effect after Jan. 8, according to according to the Herald-Tribune.

At a conference earlier this week in Sarasota, county elections supervisors said they were unsure how to go about implementing Amendment 4’s restoration of voting rights at the local level, the Herald-Tribune wrote.

The supervisors asked state elections experts about how to re-enfranchise felons who had completed the terms of their sentencing (excluding those convicted of homicide or felony sexual offenses), but the responses to these questions were vague and unclear.

Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett said at the conference that he was frustrated with “the lack of direction from the state,” the Herald-Tribune reported.

The newspaper also said that:

/Bennett asked that the state provide the 67 Florida counties with written direction for how to implement Amendment 4;

/State Division of Elections director Maria Matthews has told county supervisors of elections that “there’s been a lot of questions about whether there needs to be more guidance from agencies or legislators or anyone…all I can say at this juncture is the state is putting a pause button” on reviewing criminal records.

/Division of Elections spokeswoman Sarah Revell also reiterated that felony records being sent to local supervisors of elections are being stalled for the time being.

Advocates for the voter enfranchisement Amendment have said in the past they don’t believe legislation is needed for felons to get back their rights to vote.

Former Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho said Amendment 4 should “work itself out” and that all the questions being asked are not “indicative of problems,” the Herald-Tribune reported.

“Elections officials are concerned about the process,” Sancho told the Herald-Tribune. “It’s important to us so we ask questions; we want to know. But on Jan. 8 individuals who have a felony and have repaid all of the things they need to, they’re ready to register and the supervisors are going to register them. They’re not going to turn anybody away.”

The effort to restore voting rights to Florida felons became a national news story during the elections season and voting rights groups poured millions into the campaign for TV and radio ads.

The Amendment need at least 60 percent of voters to pass the measure, and in the end, 64.55 percent gave approval.

 

 

 

CD Davidson-Hiers
CD Davidson-Hiers is a 2017 summa cum laude graduate of Florida State University with a degree in Creative Writing and French. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key honors societies, and has received multiple writing awards for fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Prior to joining the Florida Phoenix, CD worked at the Tallahassee Democrat and has bylines in Tallahassee Magazine. She is a native of Pensacola and currently lives in Tallahassee with her tabby cat, Faulkner.

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