U. S, Rep. Charlie Crist will literally lead the way for those in St. Petersburg to register to vote this coming Tuesday, when the new Florida Constitutional amendment automatically restoring voting rights for some 1.4 million felons goes into effect.
When he was governor, Crist wasn’t able to get automatic clemency for felons passed. But his clemency board implemented policies that restored civil rights for more than 155,000 Floridians between 2007-2011, according to a guest column Crist penned for USA Today.
“In November, 64 percent of Floridians voted for Amendment 4 to automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons who have paid their debts to society,” Crist said in a statement released Friday. “While some may continue to try to stall, it is time to end this dark chapter of Florida’s history of discrimination once and for all.”
Before Amendment 4 passed, felons had to wait at least five years after completing their sentences before they could file a request to restore their voting rights with the Florida governor and Cabinet. With the Cabinet only meeting four times annually, there are more than 20,000 people still caught in the clemency pipeline, the Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this year.
“Floridians spoke loudly, decisively, and clearly – expanding the franchise in a landslide,” Crist added. “On January 8th, Amendment 4 will be the law of the land, and I, for one, cannot wait to see all my neighbors who used to be disenfranchised at the registrar’s office and at the polls. This is about forgiveness and second chances.”
Crist plans to hold a press conference in front of St. Petersburg’s City Hall shortly before 8 a.m on Tuesday. He will then lead a group of felons to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office to see them register to vote.
Governor-elect Ron DeSantis sparked anger with some supporters of Amendment 4 last month when he told the Palm Beach Post that new law should take effect only after state lawmakers pass “implementing language” in a bill that is sent to him for his signature.
That would mean a delay until March, when the 2019 Legislative session officially begins. But many county Supervisors of Elections, including those in Tampa Bay and Leon County, say they are going to register qualified felons on Tuesday, when the law goes into effect. The amendment excludes felons who have been convicted of murder or sex crimes from automatically getting their voting rights back.