72ºF

Felons can now begin registering to vote in Florida

Amendment 4 goes into effect Tuesday

MIAMI, Fla. – The voting rights of many Florida felons are being restored Tuesday, and some are celebrating by registering on the first day they become eligible.

Florida's new law could add as many as 1.4 million people to the battleground state's voter rolls. Voters approved Amendment 4 in November.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is trying to mobilize people to register online or at the election supervisors' offices. The organization's president Desmond Meade says he doesn't anticipate any legal challenge.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida says felons don't need to present proof that they completed their sentence; they can simply fill out the existing application, signing under oath that their voting rights have been restored.

On Tuesday, several felons in Central Florida showed up to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office bright and early to register to vote. 

"We are celebrating this moment. We are celebrating the love that got us here," Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Desmond Meade said.

He took his family with him for the big moment. 

"Being able to come to the Supervisor of Elections Office and say, 'I want to register to vote,' every American citizen should be able to experience this," Meade said.

Former Orange County Commissioner Mildred Fernandez was also present with her registration in hand.

Fernandez was sentenced to prison in 2012 for accepting illegal campaign contributions. 

"It's a done deal and it was overdue and even when I was county commissioner and I was serving Orange County, I always thought this was something that had to be fixed," Fernandez said.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala accompanied her husband, David Ayala, a felon who was able to register to vote on Tuesday. 

"As a state attorney, all the numbers and statistics support people who are more engaged civically are less likely to commit crime," she said. 

In Lake County, elections supervisor Alan Hayes said that although felons were welcome to register, they may have to wait for the change to go into effect as his office awaits word from state leaders, particularly on clarification on who is eligible to vote.

About 5 million voters supported the amendment in November to restore voting rights to thousands of felons who have served their time. 

Those convicted of murder or sex offenses aren't eligible.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said that the language of the amendment needs further clarification and he wants lawmakers to take a closer look at it.


About the Authors: