By Jacquelyn Carter
On Tuesday, November 6th, Florida’s Amendment 4 restored voting rights to over one million people. In too many states, a felony conviction takes away voting rights, and millions of men and women who have paid their debts to society by serving their sentences have been denied the right to vote post-incarceration. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Florida now joins 14 other states, including the District of Columbia and Maryland, by automatically restoring voting rights upon release from prison.
With close to 10% of Florida’s voting age population prohibited from casting their votes, an election could have been won or lost by this group of disenfranchised voters. In the Governor’s race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, DeSantis won by the slimmest of margins: 55,439 votes (49.7% to Gillum’s 49.0%).
According to the Sentencing Project, African American Floridians will benefit the most by Amendment 4 as “in 2016, over 418,000 (17.9%) African American ex-offenders had completed their sentences but were prohibited from voting because of their felony records.”
Restoring voter rights for ex-felons is a major victory in the battle to provide returning citizens with the rights and privileges they deserve upon completing their sentences. With over a million restored voters going to the polls in future elections, there is great hope that America’s democracy will be decided by all who have been given the inalienable right to cast their vote.