TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Florida Supreme Court today held a hearing to review the language of a proposed amendment to the state constitution which would automatically restore the right to vote for many people with past felony convictions.
Responding to the hearing, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon stated:
"We are grateful to the Florida Supreme Court for this hearing, and expect that the court will approve the language for the proposed constitutional amendment. We also express our gratitude to Jon Mills, who argued on behalf of the amendment before the court today, for his work so far in the effort to restore voting rights.
"Once the court approves the language, the next step requires a lot of work from a great many people: gathering the necessary signatures from the public and mounting a successful campaign to end Florida’s Civil War-era voting ban and bring our state into the 21st Century.
"The lifetime voting ban in Florida – one of only four states with such a policy – is rooted in Civil War-Era efforts to reduce the power of the Black vote. This stain on our constitution has left roughly 1.6 million people out of the franchise: more than any other state.
"This amendment reflects the moral belief that those who have committed crimes deserve to be punished, but when they have served their time and fulfilled the terms of their sentence, they should be restored to full citizenship. This amendment would mean voting rights will be restored only for those who have completed all the terms of their sentence, and excludes those who have committed the most serious crimes: murder and a felony sexual offense.
"It is long past due to take the manipulation of who can vote in Florida out of the hands of politicians, who can and have changed the Rules of Executive Clemency from one administration to the next. It has been proven that when people returning to our communities are able to vote and have the other aspects of citizenship restored, they are less likely to reoffend, keeping us all safer and saving the taxpayers money.
"Florida should stand beside the 29 other states like Georgia, Louisiana, Washington and New York that take a similar view that those who have completed their sentences should be restored to full citizenship."