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DeSantis, Gillum split on felon's right to vote

Candidates for Florida governor have different opinions on Amendment 4

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The major party candidates in the race to become Florida's governor have different opinions when it comes to automatically restoring a felon’s right to vote.

Amendment 4 would do that for the majority of the state's 1.7 million non-violent felons in the state after they’ve served their time and paid their fines. It's one of two amendments put on the ballot this year by citizen initiative.

The idea is supported by Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

“We ought to level those barriers that keep you from being able to make a way for yourself and for your family, having the dignity around a vote," Gillum said during a rally in support of the amendment in April.

Republican Ron DeSantis said felons need to prove they’ve changed after their sentence.

“An appallingly high percentage of people who get out of prison as convicted felons reoffend," DeSantis said.

Faith leaders in the state’s capital city tried to garner support for Amendment 4 on Monday, saying it would be an act of compassion.

“The American way, the faith way is give a person another chance. Help instill hope in that person," said Rev. R.B. Holmes of Bethel Baptist Church in Tallahassee.

If Amendment 4 does not pass, the state’s clemency process will be in the hands of the next governor.

“I do believe in a process where you have objective criteria so that people have an incentive to get right with not just the law, but society," said DeSantis.

Gillum said if elected, he’d create avenues for automatic restoration, even if Amendment 4 fails.

“Through (an) executive order, we will restore the rights of former felons," said Gillum. 

A recent statewide survey conducted by St. Pete Polls found six out of 10 Florida voters support Amendment 4.

One out of three oppose it, which means its fate is in the hands of the seven percent who are undecided.