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Citizens Voting to Restore Voting Rights

By Bret Thompson

Some states have overly harsh laws that have collectively stripped more than six million Americans of their right to vote due to their criminal record. Approximately a quarter of those who can’t vote live in Florida. That may change this November, when Amendment 4 will appear on the state’s ballot.

If it secures more than 60% of the vote, Florida’s Amendment 4 would re-enfranchise felons who have completed their sentence, excluding those who were convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses. As the New York Times notes, this would “enfranchise more people at once than any single initiative since women’s suffrage.”

There is an inherent justice in allowing those who have served their time have a voice in how their country is run. Even beyond that, studies are showing that restoring voting rights has concrete benefits for the both the individual and society as a whole. Participation in democracy may help reduce the crime rate amongst those with a record. One political scientist cited by the Times who has studied the issue theorized that, “The results suggest that reversing disenfranchisement causes citizens to increase their pro-democratic attitudes and behaviors — all of which are predictors of reduced recidivism.”

Florida’s current system has functionally resulted in a lifetime voting ban for people who have committed relatively minor crimes, such as the theft of a stop sign. Luckily, if Amendment 4 passes, that unfair practice will be stopped.

Public Citizen’s Pedro Morillas recently spoke with Desmond Meade, the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which was instrumental in bringing Amendment 4 to the ballot.

This video was part of a series that Pedro has been producing as part of the Declaration for American Democracy. To see more like it, follow the coalition’s page on Facebook.

Please share the video to help spread the word about how Amendment 4 in Florida will open up the voting booths to members of our society who have served their punishment and who now seek to be part of the solution.