Florida Votes To Restore Voting Rights To 1.4 Million Former Felons

For Yraida Guanipa, an activist released from prison more than 10 years ago who currently defends other ex-convicts' human rights the change

Florida residents to vote on felon voter rights initiative

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

According to the Sentencing Project's 2016 estimates, the measure will benefit almost 1.5 million people in Florida who have completed their felony sentences but can't vote.

With the vote in Florida, most felons will automatically have their voting rights restored when they complete their sentences or go on probation.

For many residents, they say although they've paid a price for their crimes, the lingering effects actions are taking a disproportionate toll.

Former offenders in Florida could petition the governor for clemency to have their voting rights restored, but in 2011 then-governor Rick Scott, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year, rewrote the rules, making Florida the toughest state in the U.S. for felons to regain their voting rights.

All U.S. states except for ME and Vermont bar felons from voting while they are incarcerated, but most restore that right when the inmate is released or following a period of parole or probation. The amendment exempts those convicted of sex offenses and murder. Amendment 4 was one of 13 ballot initiatives that Floridians considered this year, but it has received the most national attention, as it enfranchises the largest population in US history since women's suffrage.

Amendment 4 required 60 percent approval to pass. Florida, a swing state that also plays a key role in national elections, has the largest number of those citizens. The only way people can get the right to vote back is if the governor decides to grant it to them through a process that takes years.

Our Revolution president Nina Turner said in a statement that "tonight's passage of Amendment 4, commonly referred to as 'Second Chances, ' shows that we, as a country, are moving towards a more just, equitable society that lives up to the value of 'one person, one vote'".

Those were the first notable results as voters in 37 states considered an array of intriguing ballot measures - ranging from marijuana legalization to boosting the minimum wage to civil rights protections for transgender people. "One of the most important of our lifetime", social activist Shaun King tweeted. Almost all states allow felons to vote after completing their sentences.

Supporters of the amendment have said the old process of applying for restoration of those rights is prohibitively hard and arbitrary.

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