Florida has approved an amendment that will automatically restore voting rights to more than a million people previously convicted of felonies.
Amendment 4 would help people like 75-year-old Walter James, who lost his voting rights last year even though he has not committed a crime since 1992.
Amendment 3, which passed with 64 percent of the vote, mandates that any effort to expand casino-related gambling in Florida will require a statewide vote to pass. The win is a big victory for voting rights and the rights of formerly incarcerated people. Florida also accounts for a quarter of the disenfranchised population in the United States, according to the Sentencing Project.
Opponents, such as Florida Governor Rick Scott, say that the change will make it too easy for criminals to reacquire their rights.
"As expected, Floridians have affirmed that they are opposed to offshore oil drilling and furthermore believe that they have the right to breath clean air when in enclosed workspaces", said Constitution Revision Commission member Lisa Carlton, a former state senator, said in a statement to The News Service of Florida. Almost all states allow felons to vote after completing their sentences. The current process can take more than 10 years to complete and because of the restrictive laws, Florida once barred more former felons than any other state.
Scott was running for senator in the state this election cycle due to being term-limited out of office.
"Florida's Democrats would stand to gain some votes by extending the franchise, but the net gain of 48,000 votes is only about one-quarter of 1 percent of the more than 15 million people of voting age in Florida", the authors wrote.
Florida has not taken advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that essentially legalizes betting on sports teams. Other states, like Florida before Tuesday, banned them from ever voting once they had a felony conviction, even years after their full sentence had been completed. But, Walker's ruling was blocked by a federal appeals court.
Consider that gubernatorial contender Andrew Gillum and incumbent Senator Bill Nelson were trailing in the unofficial results in their respective races by 34,000 and 56,000 votes, out of more than 8 million cast. The new law does not apply to anyone convicted of murder or sex offenses. Florida, a swing state that also plays a key role in national elections, has the largest number of those citizens. "It's one of the most bad processes this state has ever invented".