Rouson scraps felons' rights proposal


Voters this fall won’t be faced with competing proposals aimed at restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences and paid restitution.

Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat who serves on the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, on Wednesday withdrew from consideration a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore civil rights for most felons, with an exception for those convicted of violent crimes.

Rouson axed the plan because a citizen-backed initiative that would automatically restore voting rights for felons, except for murderers and sex offenders, has been approved as Amendment 4 on the November ballot.

Rouson told the Constitution Revision Commission’s Declaration of Rights Committee he was an advocate of rights restoration “before it became popular” and that he was reluctant to withdraw his proposal because he thought it had a better chance of passing than the amendment that will go before voters.

“So it hurts me to some extent that I’m withdrawing this. But I pray that in doing so we make it clear that redemption’s time has come, that we must pass the amendment that’s been put on by the citizens and approved by the Supreme Court,” he said.

Like all constitutional amendments, the “Voting Restoration Amendment” requires 60 percent approval by voters for passage.