State Officials Analyze Restoring Felons' Voting Rights

Oct 5, 2016

Activists hope to have a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot that would automatically restore voting rights to Florida’s felons. Now officials are looking at how the measure might affect the state’s bottom line.

Voters cast their ballots.
Credit redjar via flickr /

Under Governor Rick Scott’s administration, Florida has become one of the toughest places for felons to regain their voting rights. Released felons must wait 5 to 7 years before submitting an application and clearing background checks. A constitutional amendment in the works for the 2018 election would change that. Desmond Meade’s organization Floridians for a Fair Democracy is behind the initiative. He says making it easier for felons to vote would help them reintegrate in society.

“Every single study that you will research will conclusively say that as soon as you give an individual who’s released from prison an opportunity to reintegrate back into their community, the sooner they can do so successfully, the least likely they are to commit another offense,” he said.

Meade says the disenfranchisement of felons "kills that American spirit", and discourages civic activity.

Apart from building a more vibrant democracy, Meade and other proponents argue streamlining the process would help cut administrative costs. State accountants are running their own numbers, but say any savings would depend on how the amendment is interpreted. Organizers need more than 680,000 signatures to put the measure on the 2018 ballot.