/ STORY

Restoring Voting Rights

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 overwhelmingly passed, which means that returning citizens should now enjoy the rights of any citizen in our democracy.

Amendment 4—the Voting Restoration Amendment—set out to right this wrong. A grassroots movement led by Floridians for a Fair Democracy gathered more than 1.2 million signatures to put the issue on the November 2018 ballot. Floridians for a Fair Democracy then recruited more than 12,000 volunteers from across the Sunshine State to knock on more than three million doors and make more than two million calls to voters, encouraging them to Vote Yes on Amendment 4.

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. With support from Mountain Philanthropies and others, implementation of Amendment 4 is a top priority for FRRC and many other organizations on the ground.  This means seeking out and registering eligible returning citizens to vote, and supporting efforts to work through real and created obstacles to realizing the right returning citizens have earned back. Amendment 4’s success was an inspiration to people across the United States. Its implementation will convert inspiration into reality.