Florida is one of three states where felons who have completed their sentences are still barred from voting; it's also a notoriously inhospitable place for Black people, where the combination of racial profiling, understaffed public defenders' offices, and the threat of farcically long minimum sentences has led to 1.5 million black people with fully discharged felony convictions on their records who are nevertheless banned from voting.
That may change in this November's election, when Floridians will be allowed to vote on Amendment 4, which will restore voting rights to Black residents.
The ballot measure is polling extraordinarily well, despite the state's Republican governor Rick Scott, who has been the worst governor in living memory for Black voting rights.
Constitutional amendments in Florida require least 60 percent approval to pass — no easy objective. In 2012, for example, there were 11 constitutional amendments on the ballot, and Florida voters rejected eight of them.
But a slew of early polling bodes well for supporters of Amendment 4: In February, a Quinnipiac University poll found 67 percent of Florida voters supported the idea of restoring voting rights to individuals who have committed a felony and completed their sentences, while 27 percent opposed it. Another poll released in May found that 74 percent of voters say they’d back Amendment 4. However, a poll released in June by the Florida Chamber of Commerce found that just 40 percent of voters approved of Amendment 4, with 17 percent opposed and 43 percent undecided.
Florida Has Been Stealing Votes From Black People Since the Civil War. That Could Change in November. [Rachel M Cohen/The Intercept]
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