Floridians Will Finally Get the Chance to Expand Voting Rights to 1.5 Million Residents

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On Tuesday, Florida election officials verified that a referendum to restore voting rights to roughly 1.5 million felons who have served their sentences will appear on the state ballot this November.

Organizers responsible for the victory had to collect over 766,000 signatures, which means about one out of every 27 residents in the state has supported the initiative so far. To appreciate the scope of the referendum’s potential impact on election outcomes, consider that Donald Trump won Florida—and consequently, 29 electoral college votes—by about 115,000 votes.


Florida has some of the most notoriously strict voting laws in the country, and is one of only four states that permanently bans felons from voting. Some more context from the Huffington Post (emphasis mine):

Once they complete their sentences, felons can apply to have their rights restored. To do so, they have to appeal to the state’s executive clemency board, which consists of the governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and commissioner of agriculture. The board meets once every three months to hear fewer than 100 cases ― but there are tens of thousands of petitions, meaning it can take years for people to get a hearing. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) also implemented new rules in 2011 making it so that felons must wait at least five years after completing their parole and paying all fines and fees before they can apply to have their rights restored.


The referendum would not restore voting rights to those convicted of murder or sex-related offenses. For the measure to pass this fall, it needs at least 60 percent of the vote.