Activists Sound Alarm On FL Lawmakers’ Attempt To Defang Felon Voting Amendment

March 19, 2019 11:28 a.m.

Two activists behind a recently passed amendment to the Florida constitution are sounding the alarm about lawmakers’ attempt to weaken the policy and curtail the number of former felons who can vote.

Desmond Meade, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and Neil Volz, political director of the same group, are drawing attention to a bill in the state legislature that would significantly narrow the scope of which felons can vote and impose stiff, possibly insurmountable, fines on those who try.

The bill passed out of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Tuesday, and will now go to a full floor vote. Republicans control both houses of the Florida congress.

The original version of the amendment says that all former felons, excluding those with a murder or felony sex crime conviction, are restored with the right to vote after they’ve finished doing their time.

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In the legislature’s proposed version, ex-felons indicted for first- and second-degree murder, as well as a range of sex crimes, would also be prohibited from voting. It would also add a provision that the ex-felons can’t vote until they reimburse the “cost of supervision” and other payments associated with their conviction.

Meade and Volz decry the changes in a Tampa Bay Times op-ed, saying that politicians are trying to “thwart the will of Florida voters.”

The measure passed with 65 percent support in November.

“Inserting partisanship into the implementation process of Amendment 4 is dangerous for many reasons,” the activists write. “Politicians picking their voters is wrong and offensive to the people who elect them, and, at the same time, a desire many politicians find hard to avoid.”

They advocate for the amendment to be instituted as is and for focus to be put on getting the newly minted voters educated on their rights and responsibilities.

“More than 5.1 million voters and 1.4 million newly enfranchised returning citizens will not appreciate politicians undermining the will of Floridians,” they conclude.

The legislative turpitude has been a long time coming — back in December, Republican lawmakers were muddying the waters and refusing to roll out clear guidance to the 67 county election supervisors who’d be implementing the policy.

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