Tuesday will mark an extraordinary milestone for Florida as the right to vote is restored to more than 1 million former felons in the state.
In what’s described as one of the largest enfranchisements of U.S. citizens in the past 100 years, most ex-felons in the state who have completed the terms of their sentence, including parole and probation, can register to vote either online or at their local elections office beginning Jan. 8. The measure doesn’t apply to those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.
“It’ll be a joyous day,” a pastor who was convicted of armed robbery as a teenager told The Washington Post.
“I’m very excited to get to vote again,” enthused a Vietnam veteran who was convicted of growing marijuana.
Florida is the largest U.S. state to not automatically restore voting rights to most felons who’ve completed their sentence. But Floridians overwhelmingly voted to change this in November when they passed Amendment 4 with 64 percent of the vote. Some 1.4 million voters could be added to the state’s rolls thanks to the amendment.
There has been some confusion as to whether the amendment would take effect Tuesday after Republican lawmakers, including Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis (R), suggested it be put on hold until the state legislature reviews its language.
Organizers behind the amendment have insisted, however, that it is self-executing and neither the governor nor lawmakers may alter it.
Several elections supervisors told the Tampa Bay Times this week that Amendment 4 will go into effect at midnight on Jan. 8 and voter registration applications from anyone eligible to register to vote will be accepted.
Michael Ertel, the incoming elections chief for the state, recently told the Orlando Sentinel that he saw no reason why ex-felons who’ve completed all of the conditions of their sentences shouldn’t be able to register to vote on Tuesday.
Voting rights advocates have encouraged eligible former felons, also referred to as returning citizens, to register to vote as soon as possible. The bipartisan Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has encouraged potential voters to call the toll-free number 877-MY-VOTE-0 with any questions.