An estimated 1.5 million former felons can start registering to vote in Florida as Amendment 4 goes into effect Tuesday.
Passed in November, the constitutional amendment
automatically restores the voting rights of people convicted of felonies who've completed their sentences, excluding those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. Florida was previously was one of only three states in the country that didn't automatically restore the voting rights of former felons, under a draconian law with racist roots in the Reconstruction and Jim Crow era.
Despite the clear language in Amendment 4, some Florida lawmakers are still debating
the implementation of the law. But some county Supervisors of Elections say they will register eligible former felons as per normal until they receive specific direction from either the Florida Division of Elections or the Florida Legislature on what procedures to use.
"Until any change is required by the Division of Elections or the Legislature, however, our voter registration work continues as normal," Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said in a statement. "Effective Jan. 8, 2019, the Orange County Supervisor of Elections will accept voter registration applications from new voters, including former convicted felons who are eligible to vote pursuant to the terms of the enacted Amendment."
Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and an Orlando resident who was a driving force behind Amendment 4, registered to vote Tuesday in Orange County.
"The road back to responsible citizenship has been one of my life’s greatest challenges, and the struggle to achieve access to democracy for myself and more than a million fellow Floridians has been long," Meade said in a statement. "One thing this journey has taught me is that my vote is sacred, and I should use it wisely."
Orange County residents can register to vote at the local elections office on 119 W. Kaley St., Orlando, or register online here
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