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Felon Voting Rights Advocates Turn To Amendment 4 For Recourse

MGN Online

As Gov. Rick Scott’s Cabinet meets for its last clemency board meeting before the state’s general election, the conversation surrounding felon voting rights is ramping up. One amendment on the ballot could put a new restoration system in place.

In the last few months, a federal district judge declared the state’s system “unconstitutional,” taking issue with the discretion it leaves the Governor’s cabinet to grant clemency. Judge Mark Walker ordered an overhaul. But a higher court granted a stay on the decision, leaving change uncertain in the meantime. Amendment 4, which made its way to the ballot by way of citizens’ initiative, could change all that. It would automatically restore voting rights for the state’s felons.

In April, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum spoke at a rally for Amendment 4, alongside Al Sharpton.

“We have a chance November 6, to restore that right – that opportunity, and dignity, for all Floridians,” Gillum told a crowd outside the State Capitol.

Calls for an overhaul of Florida’s current voting rights restoration system are not new to Floridians. They are, however, garnering attention at the national level. Comedian John Oliver hosts HBO’s Last Week Tonight. He implored Florida voters in his most recent episode to support Amendment 4.

“This November Florida, you’ve got a real chance to remedy a mistake, and do something genuinely good for over a million of your citizens,” Oliver said.

At its last meeting before the November election, the issue of people with a felony in their past voting illegally came up several times with applicants. Some say they did so unwittingly, like Scott Friedman in this exchange with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam:

Putnam: “Why did you vote illegally twelve times?”

Friedman: “I shouldn’t answer because I thought y’all might need my vote. I shouldn’t answer that.”

Putnam: “I wouldn’t recommend it.

Friedman: “Then I won’t. I didn’t know I was voting illegally.”

The next meeting of the board will be Dec. 5.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.