Voters in Florida will decide whether to restore the voting rights to about 1.5 million people who cannot vote due to felony convictions. This may reshape the state politics as the difference between the winning candidate and the losing one could be as less as one percentage point. That this vote will take place is beyond any doubt. Officials from the state election authority have certified that the signatures for this vote to happen until now are collected from 799,000 Florida state residents. This is much more than the required numbers to put the question in the upcoming ballot on November 6. Votes will have to decide on Amendment 4. The latter is a move to change the Constitution of the state. It will also end the voting ban imposed on felons. The amendment requires an approval of 60 percent to become law.
Out with the old
If passed, this action will repeal a policy crafted during the Jim Crow era. These old policies have endured more than it should. It is known that such kind of legislation goes against the African-Americans and the poor electorate. Florida is the biggest of the three US states where felons cannot run for office, serve jury duty or even run for any political post. Exceptions are made only if the ex-felon applies for clemency. The latter is a time-consuming and laborious process. There is an added 'if'- the personal support of the governor is needed. Florida, incidentally, has a 10,000 cases backlog.
Desmond Meade, 39 years old, is a happy man. He gained a law degree and left his drug addiction which landed him in jail years ago. He has waited for many years to regain his voting rights. He also holds the chairmanship of the Floridians for a Fair Democracy. This is a political committee functioning out of Clearwater. It is the organization which is coordinating the statewide petition drive. Using paid solicitors, Floridians for a Fair Democracy collected 1.1 million signatures from a total of four counties- Broward, Pinellas, Miami-Dade, and Hillsborough. Meade is confident of success.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has financially supported the voters, contributing about $1.8 million of the total $4.6 million collected. This proposal will be seen on the state ballot during a midterm election. The latter also holds the fate of one of the two Florida seats in the US Senate.