Questions still need answering after passing of Amendement 4
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – More than 1,000,000 Floridians with felony convictions are expected to have had their voting rights restored under Amendment 4, but after testimony from supervisors of elections and state agency heads, it's become clear to lawmakers that many questions still haven't been answered.
The restoration went into effect in December, but lawmakers are discussing possible legislative action to make sure the will of the voters is carried out. Arguably two of the most pressing questions, who qualifies for rights restoration and how do supervisors know if a sentence has been completed?
"Clearly we want to maximize people's opportunity to vote, but we also very clearly need to follow the voter's intent, which is that all terms of the sentence be completed," said Sen. Jeff Brandes (R- Pinellas County).
Lawmakers are also looking at how to ensure the process of registering felons who have completed their sentence is fast and streamlined.
An estimated 50,000 people in the state complete their felony sentences each year.
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which helped get Amendment 4 on the ballot, wants to ensure lawmakers don't try and narrow the scope of the amendment.
"(It's) more than a political science exercise or a legal discussion this is ultimately a discussion about real people's lives," said Neil Volz, a member of the coalition.
The amendment specifically excludes murderers and sex criminals, but lawmakers say even that has to be defined. Desmond Meade with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition argues that lawmakers should consider testimony it collected from voters while drafting the amendment.
The coalition says it will be bringing people directly affected by Amendment 4 to the Capitol in March to meet with lawmakers.
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