Former Florida inmates can now vote starting today thanks to Amendment 4

Before the most recent election, ex-cons could not vote after paying their debt to society, but that's now changed for one in four Black Floridians

Amendment 4
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


The voting rights of millions of former felons in Florida can now be restored if they chose to register to vote starting today thanks to Amendment 4, a state constitutional ballot measure that was passed in November, TV station WRKG reports.

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It still remains to be seen how many ex-cons will step forward to apply to have their voting rights restored. They can apply in person at an elections office or register online. Amendment 4 does, however, exclude those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.

Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, and Iowa were the only states to bar felons from voting for life unless they seek clemency. As it stands, approximately 1.6 million Floridians, about one in four African Americans, were affected and could not vote in the 2018 election.

A large influx of new voters is expected to affect the Florida’s electoral vote in 2020.

“One hundred and fifty years of disenfranchisement, and this moment here means the end,” Desmond Meade, who has spent years petitioning to restore voting rights, told the Orlando Sentinel. “This is a moment for democracy.”

One Tuesday he walked into the Orange County elections office and registered to vote for the first time in decades, which ends the state’s block against former felons which dates back to the Civil War-era.

Florida’s newly inaugurated governor Ron DeSantis has said he wanted to wait until the state legislature reconvened in March in order to implement Amendment 4, but voter rights advocates maintain that the measure, which passed during the 2018 election, was self-implementing.

Elections officials for the most part did not ask if people coming to register to vote were there because of Amendment 4, but many remarked about “upticks” in people at their offices.

Susan Bucher, Supervisor of Elections in Palm Beach County, called the new law coming into effect a “historic” day.

“Today … will be memorialized in Florida history for allowing every citizen to have a vote,” she said.