U.S. mid-terms: Florida restores voting rights to ex-convicts

Election Results Florida Passes Amendment to Restore Voting Rights for Most Felons

The amendment restores voting rights to ex-felons who completed their sentences, although people convicted of murder or felony sex offences were excluded.

Florida voters on Tuesday approved a state constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to some 1.5 million people with felony convictions, ending a system that activists said disproportionately affected poor and black residents.

"'Kol hakavod' to the Reform Jewish communities in Florida - and across the USA - who organized and mobilized to make this happen", the national Religious Action Center said on Twitter, using the Hebrew term for "well done".

The amendment, which had more than 71 percent of the vote, requires Florida voters to approve any expansion of gambling in Florida. "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".

Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia joined Florida in felony disenfranchisement, which dates back to the Reconstruction Era when many politicians sought ways to prevent African Americans from voting after the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870. While more than 150,000 people had their voting rights restored under Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott's predecessor, that number dwindled to just a few thousand under Scott. Scott boasted in Clemency Board meetings, where he presided alongside the three state Cabinet members, that "there's absolutely no standards so we can make any decisions we want".

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Five days out from Election Day, voters were teetering between enshrining the amendment in the state's governing document and telling state lawmakers to kick rocks with 47 percent in favor and 34 percent opposed. For years, the vast majority of disenfranchised felons were non-violent offenders who served their sentences, but were still unable to vote. Whereas most states prohibit people now in prison from voting and some extend this to probation or parole, Florida was one of four states where felon status permanently removed one's voting rights.

The move also attracted significant star power from singer John Legend and Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman.

The results came in ahead of a closely watched gubernatorial race between former Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Others celebrated the long-awaited victory, which could shift Florida's future political climate.

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