The debate about whether or not convicted felons who have completed their prison sentences should be allowed to have their voting rights restored has been ongoing for quite some time. However, Amendment 4, also called the “Voting Restoration Amendment” plans to do just that.
Amendment 4 was officially approved last week and is set to appear on voter’s ballots in November. Although this might sound like the bill is very close to being passed, a super majority is still necessary in order to make voting on the issue possible.
Right now, Florida is 1 of 4 states that doesn’t offer automatic restoration of a person’s rights when they are finally released from prison. Under Amendment 4, this can all change. According to Attorney at Law, Al Sauline, “Amendment four is a provision that will be on everybody's ballot in November. If passed with 60% of the vote, it would help felons automatically have their voting rights restored.”
There are currently over 1.5 million Floridians who cannot partake in elections because of their felony convictions. If 60 percent of voters vote yes on Amendment 4, people with felony charges, excluding murders and those with felony sexual offenses, will be eligible to vote after they complete their required sentences. More importantly, Amendment 4 will give some people the opportunity to once again have a voice in their democracy.
As Attorney Saline says, “It makes it feel as if they are a part of the community. They have their voice being heard once again in our democracy whether it be local elections, or the office of the presidency.”
According to the Supervisor of Elections, Mark Andersen, the process of re-registering should be fairly simple. "If they've been removed or they've removed themselves, they would just come back and begin the process again just like any other person registering for the first time."
Bay County residents were asked what they thought about the possibility of a felon's rights being restored. Most had similar responses, saying “You know I think that some felons should be able to vote,” or “They should have their right to vote just like anybody else."
A vote for yes on Amendment 4 restores rights, while a vote for no will keep things the way they are. A 60% majority is needed to pass the Amendment in November.