Florida restores voting rights to more than 1 million felons


But some activists criticized the amendment for excluding individuals convicted of murder or sex crimes.

This amendment will restore voting rights for Florida residents convicted of felonies but who have completed their prison sentences.

Amendment 3, which was proposed by Voters in Charge, garnered roughly 71 percent of the vote on Tuesday night. "A few exceedingly well-financed special interests are driving a ballot initiative that is mislabeled and anti-consumer in the State of Florida".

It is impossible to talk about Amendment 4's passage without noting its political impact one day after the state's two top Democrats apparently lost by very close margins-even though the moral and inspiration dimensions of the campaign can not be ignored.

"To work in society, to contribute...and have things that affect you that pass and not be able to have a say, and now to be able to say collectively that our voice will count is a huge psychological [change]", Alexander tells TIME. The only way people can get the right to vote back is if the governor decides to grant it to them through a process that takes years.

Shortly after taking office in 2007, then-Republican Governor Charlie Crist persuaded two of the state's three Cabinet members to approve rules that would allow the parole commission to restore voting rights for nonviolent felons without a hearing. "For too long, Florida has been an extreme outlier - our state's lifetime voting ban was the single most powerful voter suppression tactic in the country, shutting more people out of the voting booth and out of our democracy than any other single law or policy in the country".

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has labeled the ballot initiative as an "environmental amendment" that promotes clean air and clean water.

"We are on the cusp of history here in Florida", said Delaitre Hollinger, president of the NAACP's Tallahassee branch.

Most states have some voting restrictions for people convicted of felonies.

What happens to a person convicted of a felony varies from state to state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Currently, felons must wait a minimum of five years after completing their sentences to apply for restoration of their voting rights.

Neil Volz, political director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the group behind the measure, said he and Desmond Meade, the group's chair, were watching the returns in a hotel room in Orlando together and broke into tears when it was announced the amendment passed.