Voting sets the path for the future of our towns, states and nation. And for those who have paid their debt to society following a conviction, voting is a way to reclaim their voices and restore their position as active members of their communities.
In Florida, more than 1.4 million people were denied the right to vote because they had a prior felony conviction. Until November 2018, Florida was one of four states in the country that permanently took voting rights away from returning citizens, even after those citizens had completed the terms of their sentences, including prison, parole, and probation. As a result, Florida had disenfranchised more potential voters than any other state, with more than 10 percent of all potential voters and more than 21 percent of potential African American voters in Florida unable to vote due to felony records.
Amendment 4—the Voting Restoration Amendment—set out to right this wrong. A grassroots movement led by Floridians for a Fair Democracy, with support from Mountain and others, gathered more than 1.2 million signatures to put the issue on the November 2018 ballot. And they did. Over 5 million voters in Florida cast a vote for what was America’s largest re-enfranchisement moment since the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Despite their newfound eligibility to vote, many remain disenfranchised due to coordinated efforts to keep them from the polls. Undeterred, implementation of Amendment 4 remains an ongoing priority to Mountain grantees in Florida.