After voters in Florida overwhelming passed Amendment 4, which would restore the right to vote to more than 1.4 million Floridians with felony convictions, in the midterm election, the groundbreaking law will finally take effect on Tuesday.
Any person with a felony conviction—or returning citizen, as the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition prefers—who has completed the terms of their sentence, including probation and parole, is eligible to vote under the new law, according to CNN. (The law excludes those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.)
The American Civil Liberties Union told the secretary of state in a letter that Amendment 4 is “self-executing,” its language “specific and unambiguous” and that “[t]he burden is on the state, not the individual, to establish whether a voter is ineligible utilizing current administrative practices, databases and resources.” The ACLU also pointed out that people newly eligible to vote under the law can be registered using existing forms.
As Jezebel previously pointed out when the amendment passed at the ballot in November, this expansion of voter rights will undeniably help black Floridians, one in five of which were previously ineligible to vote because of their criminal record.
Some people whose voting rights will be restored under the new law have been among those campaigning to get the word out about it. The Orlando Sentinel spoke to Stefanie Anglin, who campaigned in support of Amendment 4 for years, and who herself is once again eligible to vote because of the law. While knocking on doors, she says she “ran into a young man who just really felt he had no options.” She went on:
“But I was able to get him to open the door for a face-to-face conversation. I explained in detail all Amendment 4 would do for us. And he said, ‘Now I get it.’ I’ll ask my wife to go and vote for it.”
Another Floridian now eligible to vote is David Ayala, who according to the Sentinel received his first felony drug conviction at the age of 16, before he could even vote. He said, “You don’t really give it any thought at age 16 [...] You’re making decisions that affect you 10, 15 years from now, but you can’t even think about a year from now.”
Both Ayala and Anglin are focused on criminal justice reform; Ayala’s wife is Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala. He said:
“I’m happy to see state attorneys all across the state actually approach [dealing with] re-entry at the point of sentencing,” Ayala said. “Ninety-five percent of people actually sent to prison come back into the community. Show them what the doors of re-entry look like.”
Congratulations to Florida and its 1.4 million newly eligible voters!