TALLAHASSEE, FL - Today the Florida Senate voted to pass legislation that would undermine Amendment 4, the constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to Floridians with prior felony convictions, excluding murder and felony sexual offenses, after they complete all terms of their sentence. This bill broadens the definition of murder and felony sexual offenses and needlessly prevents individuals from having their voting rights restored if they owe any civil debt—even if they have completed their criminal sentence as ordered by the judge.
The bill extends far beyond what voters intended when they passed the amendment and has been consistently challenged by the ACLU of Florida due to constitutional concerns.
As it stands, this legislation will harm all returning citizens who have prior felony convictions but have completed all but the financial obligations of their sentences. Restricting the ability to vote based on the size of one’s bank account will have a disparate and intensely negative impact on communities of color and economically disadvantaged individuals, and perpetuate the old Jim Crow practice of government interference in African Americans’ access to the ballot box.
Micah Kubic, executive director, ACLU of Florida, responded to today’s vote on SB 7066 stating:
“The Florida Legislature is thwarting the will of the people and restricting the eligibility to vote for thousands of Floridians who have earned their second chance. Both SB 7066/HB 7089 are overly broad and extend far beyond the plain language of Amendment 4 or what any reasonable person would conclude the voters intended when they passed Amendment 4. These bills are a blatant legislative overreach and an example of state legislators substituting their views for the those of the people of Florida. Floridians believe in second chances and the restorative justice granted by Amendment 4, which is why 5.1 million votes were cast in its favor.
“For decades, state lawmakers had the chance to be on the right side of history and restore the right to vote but failed to do so. Today, instead of following the will of the people, they have chosen to thwart access to the ballot box and a historic citizens’ initiative that re-enfranchised 1.4 million people. Floridians will not forget--nor will we.”