Big boost for Florida felon re-enfranchisement campaign

A campaign aiming to restore the voting rights of over one-and-a-half million Americans is getting a major shot in the arm in the form of backing from the ACLU.

The civil liberties organization told The Washington Post Monday it’ll invest at least $5 million in an effort to pass a ballot initiative in Florida that would re-enfranchise ex-felons upon completion of their full sentences. That would bring Florida in line with most states.

To get the initiative on the ballot for 2018, organizers must gather around 700,000 signatures from Florida voters by next February. Then the measure must gain at least 60 percent of the vote.

Florida-based civil rights groups have been working on the campaign for several years, but failed to get enough signatures to get the initiative on the 2016 ballot.

Florida is one of just three states — the others are Kentucky and Iowa — that disenfranchise ex-felons for life unless the governor restores their rights individually. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (pictured), a Republican, has required that ex-felons wait five years to apply, and has approved few applications.

The result is that over 1.6 million Floridians, and over 20 percent of blacks in the state, are disenfranchised thanks to past felony convictions. Florida accounts for over a quarter of disenfranchised ex-felons in America.

Florida’s strict felon disenfranchisement rules were put in place soon after the Civil War in an effort to curb the political power of freed slaves. They were responsible for determining the result of the 2000 presidential election, among other contests.


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