Floridians passed an amendment to restore felons’ voting rights, but the GOP’s fighting it
The same election that put governor-elect Ron DeSantis in office put an end to the state’s retrograde policy of making felons apply for their voting rights to be restored—or, at least, it should have. Voters passed Amendment 4 by an enormous margin, but DeSantis has already announced his intention to delay and narrow its benefits.
Amendment 4 specified that non-violent felons should have their rights restored. It was meant to be self-implementing, or automatic. Instead of accepting Floridians’ vote, Republicans are going to continue their war on voting rights, which has been anything but subtle. Outgoing Gov. Rick Scott used his prerogative to restore voting rights twice as frequently for white felons. Scott’s not the first Florida governor to selectively restore voting rights, but his Republican-to-Democrat rights-restoration numbers are the worst since 1971.
DeSantis claims that Amendment 4 must be implemented via legislation. If that were true, Republicans would be able to walk the ball until March’s legislative session even though multiple counties have elections scheduled between now and then. Then there’s the likelihood—which DeSantis has already hinted at—that Republicans would produce a bill that limits as strictly as possible the people to which Amendment 4 applies. How could they do this? They could determine as few offenses as possible qualify as “non-violent.”
More than likely, the self-implementing versus must-have-legislation fight will take Amendment 4 to the courts. Let’s hope Florida’s judges have more integrity than DeSantis and his ilk.