As FL Ex-Felons Cheer Voting Rights, An Issue Looms

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Hundreds of former felons celebrated on the steps of the Florida’s Capitol Tuesday, more than four months after voters passed Amendment 4, a ballot measure that is estimated to restore voting rights to more than 1.2 million residents. Inside the Capitol, legislators may begin a fight over who gets to vote — this time over the definition of “murder,” the Miami Herald reports.. Amendment 4 ostensibly allows most ex-felons to register to vote as soon as they complete their sentence, if they are not guilty of murder or a felony sex crime. The law took effect Jan. 8, and elections officials soon registered new voters in droves.

Since November, Republicans have talked about proposing legislation to clarify the law. A key senator on the committee drafting that bill wants to make attempted murder a disqualifying offense. “The question is, ‘What does it include?’ ” said Sen. Jeff Brandes. “Obviously murder — first degree, second degree — to me, that means attempted murder, because there’s intent.” That’s an interpretation Amendment 4 supporters consider too broad. “I don’t think attempted murder is written anywhere within our constitutional language,” said Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Council, which sponsored the Amendment 4 campaign with the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU’s Kirk Bailey says, “Attempted murder is not murder.” Some 53,135 voters registered in January. That’s up from 44,396 in the same month in 2018 and 33,835 in 2017. A Tampa Bay Times analysis found that voters removed from the rolls for felony convictions tended to be black men. Black men make up just 5.5 percent of registered voters in Florida, but their share of those registering since Jan. 8 grew to 9.9 percent.

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