The November 2018 election for governor in Florida is slated to be one of the state’s most pivotal elections ever — but there’s another measure on the ballot that holds a special amount of anxiety for about 1.5 million residents of the state.
Florida is home to that many former felons, many of them sentenced on drug crimes, who have been permanently barred from the right to vote. Across America, only three states permanently bar felons from the ability to vote and Florida is one of them.
Now, a few people hope that’s about to change. Although they cannot vote themselves, two Florida men who have been convicted of felonies — one for drugs and weapons and one for conspiracy crimes involving lobbyists — have managed to get the issue on the ballot. They’re hoping that the state’s voting residents will offer its “returning citizens” who have committed crimes and served their sentences a measure of grace and forgiveness.
The activists have taken their appeal door-to-door in many cases, talking to residents about the idea that the penal system is supposed to offer convicts a chance at redemption if they have paid their debt. They hope that the idea has enough appeal to others to pass — which requires capturing 60 percent or more of the vote.
In specific, the amendment to the state’s Constitution would allow former felons, with the notable exception of those who have been convicted of either sexual offenses or murder, to regain the ability to vote after their entire sentence — including any probation — has been completed.
This effort underscores the difficult changes that a felony conviction on any charge can bring to someone’s life. No matter how slight the actual sentence — even if it is just probation — the convicted person’s life is often never the same again. That’s one of the reasons it is so important to have a vigorous defense to any drug charge.