Florida’s midterm election not only attracted attention for its gubernatorial and Senate races, but also for its wide array of amendments that would affect the lives of emergency responders’ children, racing greyhounds, and non-sexual and non-violent convicted felons.
Amendment 4 returned a majority vote of “yes” on Nov. 6, restoring the right of convicted felons to vote in upcoming state and national elections.
Before this amendment was passed, ex-convicts were not permitted to continue their civic duty of voting after they completed their judicial sentence. This has been challenged and protested for years and is now history.
I was especially excited to see that this amendment was passed by Florida voters. In my personal life, I have seen this affect various people. Convicted felons are still impacted by elections, pay taxes, contribute to the economy and live their lives like any other American, only now they carry criminal records on their backs.
One of the debates on this issue was whether or not violent and sexual offenders would be granted this same restoration right. It was concluded that it would not, which might have influenced the landslide vote that the amendment received on Election Day.
Many Florida voters expressed that they would not feel comfortable with violent and sexual abusers being able to voice their opinions on who gets to be in office. I have to say, I agree. While these people are still human, they’ve chosen to commit crimes that have directly harmed someone, unlike drug or white-collar crimes that don’t always cause purposeful physical damage to a person.
With this law, over one million ex-felons will now be able to vote. For the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election, this is huge. This means that in the state of Florida, which is known as one of the key swing states, there will be another one million voices to take into consideration.
These opinions have been spoken but ignored in the past, and could now impact the way that Florida votes. It could make Florida an even more Republican state, or make the blue wave a tsunami. It’s unclear at the time which direction it will go, but it could certainly mean good things for Florida Democrats.
Historically, Democrats have been more in favor of prisoners’ rights than Republicans. Democrats have proposed and attempted to pass bills in the Congress and Senate to shorten the sentences of prisoners, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, and more specifically the First Step Act which aims to increase the amount of time off for good behavior.
Democrats have voiced more concerns, with the exception of a smaller number of Republicans, ex-convicts that are now going to be registered to vote should be voting blue, and I believe that they will. As voters, we strongly believe that you should vote for who is going to represent you. Your wants, needs and concerns should be represented by the party and candidate who have your best interest at heart. For convicted felons, I would strongly urge them to register as Democrats.
It has been a long time coming for felons to be granted their right to vote once again in the state of Florida. In my past as a volunteer for Florida Democrats and other political organizations in my hometown of Naples, Florida, I have seen how hard the Democratic Party has fought to encourage people to see how vital these laws are to our society and people.
Amendment 4 has made history in this state and I hope it will influence others to do the same.
Britny Sanchez is a junior majoring in political science.