Floridians Consider Suffrage, ‘Second Chance’ for Felons

The Story:

Today, the voters in Florida are acting on several proposed amendments to their constitution. One of these, Amendment 4, would automatically restore suffrage to ex-cons who have finished their sentences, so long as they have not been convicted of murder or sex offenses.

The Background:

The states of the United States take very different views about the consequences of a felony conviction for the felon’s right to vote. Only four states still have laws that disenfranchise all former felons until or unless the Governor extends clemency. Florida is one of that select group (as are Iowa, Virginia, and Kentucky).

To its supporters, Amendment 4 is a civil rights cause. It could extend the vote to 1.5 million people currently without it.

Some who believe in the cause of re-enfranchisement resent Amendment 4 as itself discriminatory. An op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper in September argued that the cause of “redemption and reintegration into the community rings hollow when it excludes certain former prisoners,” that is, convicted murderers and sex offenders.

The Thing to Know:

As of this writing, the Amendment seems likely to pass. In one poll, 70% of those questioned in a recent telephone survey supported it.

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