By Natasha Bach
October 30, 2018

With Election Day just a week away, there remain millions of citizens across the U.S. who are ineligible to vote.

Among them? Florida residents with felony records.

But a measure will appear on this year’s ballot that could re-enfranchise as many as 1.4 million people in Florida with such records. Along with Iowa and Kentucky, Florida is one of just three states across the country that bars anyone who has committed a felony from voting.

Amendment 4 would restore voting rights to those with a felony conviction who have completed their sentences, including parole and probation. This does not include those who have been convicted of murder or sexual assault. The measure needs at least 60% of the vote in order to pass.

Should the bill pass, it could mark “the largest expansion of voting rights since the 26th Amendment,” according to The Wall Street Journal, (The amendment lowered the voting age to 18.) The Sentencing Project estimates that as of 2016, more than 6 million people have lost their right to vote due to “felony disenfranchisement.” Of these, approximately 1.4 million people live in Florida—more than in any other state.

Under former Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, who served from 1999 to 2007 and 2007 to 2011, respectively, clemency laws were loosened in Florida, making it easier for those who had been convicted of a felony to regain their voting rights. During Bush’s eight years in office and Crist’s four, they restored voting rights to 75,000 and 150,000 people respectively.

When Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, however, he amended the laws once again, making the process for rights restoration more complex. As such, applications to restore rights have dropped by close to 95%, according to the Sentencing Project’s estimates, and only 3,000 people have had their rights restored in the last seven years. Thousands of other applications remain pending.

While Florida’s law already represents one of the strictest in its treatment of convicted felons, there’s another major reason supporters are advocating for Amendment 4’s passage. The law disproportionately affects African-Americans, according to Amendment 4’s supporters—a claim that appears to be substantiated by the Sentencing Project’s data. More than 1 in 5 African-Americans in Florida can’t vote because of a felony conviction according to the organization’s estimates.

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