Here's How Amendment 4 Would Impact Floridians With Felony Convictions

Nov 1, 2018

Florida is one of the strictest states when it comes to restoring the right to vote for people with felony convictions.

Former felons do not automatically get the right to vote back after they’ve served their time. That's  1.5 million Floridians who cannot vote.

Amendment 4 would automatically restore the right to vote for former felons except for people with murder or sex crime convictions.

It has wide bipartisan support and very little organized opposition, though some candidates have stated they are not in support of an automatic restoration process.

In a few political races, support and opposition are split down party lines.

Governor Rick Scott, who is running for Senate, and Republican candidate for governor Ron DeSantis, both oppose amendment 4. Their democratic opponents Sen. Bill Nelson and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum back Amendment 4.

This issue disproportionately impacts black adults. In Florida, more than one in five black voters can’t cast ballots because of a felony conviction.

To pass, Amendment 4 needs 60 percent of the vote.

Under the current clemency process, after someone with a felony conviction gets out and completes the terms of their release, there’s a five to seven-year waiting period before they can apply to be allowed to vote again.

And then it can take years before getting a meeting in Tallahassee with the clemency board made up of the governor and the state cabinet.

Amendment 4 would do away with the current lengthy and ambiguous clemency process and grant people with felony convictions the right to vote once they're released from prison and complete the terms of their release.

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Meet some of the people Amendment 4 would impact:

Dexter Gunder
Credit Nadege Green / WLRN

Dexter Gunder, 39

My mom got out of prison when I was 18. I’m 39 now [going to] be 40 this year and my mom still don’t have her rights back.

I’m a returning citizen, I’ve only been home a year and I’m trying to get my rights restored.

I was incarcerated for three years for fraud. Coming home has been terrible. Trying to find a job with a felony conviction, even housing—a man serving his time once he completes his sentence he should be able to go out and get a job and take care of his family and everything.

We need people from the community that know what we’re going through to get into office. 

We’re trying to get the people who can’t vote to get their family members to vote.

Alecia Tramel
Credit Nadege Green / WLRN

Alecia Tramel, 48

I’m an HIV/AIDS advocate. I’m positive, I’ve been positive for 18 years. Reminding people to get out and vote, that is a beautiful thing.

I was 22 when I was arrested. I hung around the wrong crowd. And you know when you're young and impressionable you do all kinds of things.

I am a productive citizen now.

Even though I'm here you know helping out with the canvassing and all that, I still can't vote.

Voting is a civil right as well as a human right. Being a part of society, that's my right and I want it. They didn't stop me from paying taxes when I got out.

Christian Puentes
Credit Nadege Green / Nadege Green

Christian Puentes

I got in trouble a long time ago and I've been out 14 years going on 15. I haven't been in trouble, you know I reintegrated into society. I stay with a positive attitude. I test patients for allergies and also treat patients for allergies for food and environmental allergies. 

I'm a taxpayer and I'm just basically at the mercy of this [clemency] board. 

It's just not having those rights just kind of reinforces that you're kind of like a second class citizen, like you're there, but you're not there fully.

It will feel good to go vote.