When Florida voters approved a ballot initiative last month to restore the voting rights of some felons, advocates rejoiced in the expectation that more than a million people soon would have the chance to add their names to the voter rolls. Now, a fight is brewing between the broad coalition of civil and voting rights groups that backed the measure and some state and local officials who argue that lawmakers must shape its implementation, The Hill reports. That has raised concerns among some supporters that any action by opponents could lead to legislation that lingers in the state Capitol, months after they expected it to begin.
The growing uncertainty over how and when the measure, known as Amendment 4, will take effect has stirred confusion among county election officials and raised the prospect of a bitter legal dispute over the voting rights of roughly 1.4 million people convicted of felonies. Florida’s laws barring those with felony records from voting were among the nation’s toughest. Along with Kentucky and Iowa, it was among three states that permanently revoked felons’ access to the ballot box. Those who hoped to have their voting rights restored were required to plead their case to the state’s Executive Clemency Board. Melba Pearson of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida is gearing up to file a lawsuit if former felons who qualify to register to vote under Amendment 4 are turned away on Jan. 8, when the law is expected to take effect. “At the end of the day, you don’t get to undo election results because you don’t like the outcome,” Pearson said. The ACLU of Florida and other advocates for the amendment argue that it was intended to become effective without any action from the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.