It might surprise you to learn that American citizens convicted of a felony lose their right to vote. Type of federal crime doesn’t matter. Across the board (except for two instances), whether the crime was violent or not, this basic American right is yanked upon conviction.
Some might say that it is a justifiable punishment because of the severity of the crime. But did you also know that many felons who previously lost their voting rights are now going to be participating in the very next election?
This change in policy is thanks to the hotly-contested proposition on the recent ballot in Florida calling for the restoration of voting rights of most convicted felons. Up until this vote, most felons have not been able to cast their ballots.
According to the National Conference Of State Legislatures, “It has been common practice in the United States to make felons ineligible to vote, in some cases permanently. Over the last few decades, the general trend has been toward reinstating the right to vote at some point, although this is a state-by-state policy choice."
Before you go on a rant about how convicted murderers and rapists ought to have no right to participate in the Democratic process, you might want to take a look at this.
Florida is by no means the first state to restore voting rights to convicts. There are many others that have already provided for the return of the voting privilege once certain criteria are fulfilled. In fact, there are two states in which a convicted felon NEVER loses the right to vote - Maine and Vermont - They can even cast their ballots while in prison!
Most states, though, have provisions on how a convicted felon can get his/her right to vote back. But Florida was one of the ten states that had never specified, leaving many of those who had paid their debt to society in limbo. Unsure if they can vote, but not wanting to take the chance of committing another felony by voting illegally, they abstain.
Now, thanks largely to the efforts of Desmond Meade, the proposition that was on the November 2018 ballot has passed - by an overwhelming majority. 65% of Floridians approved the restoration of voting rights to nearly one-and-a-half million felons who have completed not only their sentences but also probation and parole. The only exceptions are for rape and murder.
Emotions are running high for those felons who are affected by this move.
"I'll be a human being again. I'll be an American citizen again"
Whether or not a felon regains the right to vote after having it automatically revoked upon conviction, depends upon the states. It boggles the mind that there is such disparity among the states, even for voting I a federal election. Seems a little fishy to me.
And a word of warning to the state of Florida: The ACLU is watching.
"The ACLU says it's prepared to sue if Florida officials fail to comply with Amendment 4, which re-enfranchises felons who have completed all terms of their sentences.
"They're trying to circumvent the will of the voter by putting up all these roadblocks."
We shall see if the fight continues or if the felons are now home free.
To see where your state stands on the voting rights of convicted felons, follow this link.