More than 1 million Floridians will now be able to vote thanks to approval of Amendment 4. The amendment restores voting rights to people convicted of felonies, who have finished their sentences. Only those convicted of murder or felony sex offenses will remain ineligible in Florida.
Ban affected nearly 10 percent of Floridians
Based on estimates from the Sentencing Project, there are about 1.5 million people with felony convictions that have completed their sentences in the state. That is about 9.2 percent of the population. Though not all these Floridians will be able to vote, it represents a significant part of the voting population.
The voting restriction had disproportionately affected African-American voters. The Sentencing Project stated in 2016, nearly 18 percent of the potential African-American voters were ineligible to vote due to the law.
Few other states had such restrictive laws
Many states restrict voting for people convicted of felonies. Those in prison are often barred from voting. However, only two other states, Kentucky and Iowa, barred people who had served their felony sentences from voting.
Former process allowed few to have voting rights restored
Before the amendment passed, Governor Rick Scott set up a manual review process that allowed former felons to have their voting rights reinstated. However, they would have up to wait seven years, fill out an application and then wait for the governor to approve or deny their application. While the process was in place, the Florida Commission on Offender Review stated only 3,005 out of 30,000 applicants had their right to vote restored.
The change in law could have a significant impact on future elections. Florida is considered a swing state, which means it is not typically a Republican or Democrat voting state.