Florida grants felons who have served their time the right to vote

Florida residents to vote on felon voter rights initiative

The amendment exempts those convicted of sex offenses and murder.

For the past seven years, felons have had to wait five years after completing their sentence to even apply to have their voting rights restored.

"Florida's Democrats would stand to gain some votes by extending the franchise, but the net gain of 48,000 votes is only about one-quarter of 1 percent of the more than 15 million people of voting age in Florida", the authors wrote.

When almost two-thirds of Florida's voters said yes to Amendment 4 to restore voting rights to 1.4 million felons who completed their sentences, they sent a moral message with political consequences that will reverberate in Florida and nationally for years.

Most Florida felons who have finished their sentences will be able to vote again in future elections.

At least 60 percent of voters had to approve it for Amendment 4 to become law. Fifty-seven-year-old Zinovy Nudel said he would have supported rights restoration years ago, but it wasn't on the ballot.

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The ballot measure, which had been backed financially by Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, is aimed at limiting gambling's expansion in the state. Amendment 4 was one of 13 ballot initiatives that Floridians considered this year, but it has received the most national attention, as it enfranchises the largest population in USA history since women's suffrage. Bill Nelson has already called for a recount and with good reason, the vote is split nearly directly in two in the state along rural and urban lines (see the NY Times' instructive map).

With its 29 electoral college votes and perennial swing-state status, Florida is tremendously influential politically.

Orlando resident Desmond Meade pulled off a Herculean feat by leading the passage of the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative movement - also known as Florida's Amendment 4. However, according to a Vox analysis of the voting habits of people previously convicted of felonies in states where they have voting rights, this group tends to vote at low rates and does not have a clear partisan bias. Donald Trump's presidency was guaranteed after he won Florida by only 112,911 votes. Other states, like Florida before Tuesday, banned them from ever voting once they had a felony conviction, even years after their full sentence had been completed.

"We want to build on the infrastructure that we've built here in Florida for criminal justice reforms", said Robert Rooks, Vice President for the Alliance for Safety and Justice.

Supporters of the amendment have said the old process of applying for restoration of those rights is prohibitively hard and arbitrary.

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Florida affiliate, said the result would remove "an ugly stain" from the state constitution.

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