Florida law makes it extraordinarily difficult for felons to have their civil rights restored, requiring them to wait up to seven years after they have done their time before they can apply to the Governor for clemency.
That changed on November 6 at the polls. Besides electing their members of Congress and other state and local officials, voters were given the opportunity to rewrite the state constitution by approving Amendment Four, allowing felons to register to vote as soon as they complete their sentence, except for murderers and sex offenders. Under current law felons must wait up to seven years before they can apply for an arbitrary and cumbersome clemency process which requires them to appear in person before the governor to plead their case.
Florida’s constitution had one of the most restrictive voting bans in the nation, a hangover from its post-Civil War constitution. The amendment received 64% support and automatically goes into effect in January. (Read more background on Amendment Four here)
Passage of Amendment Four could add 1.4 million voters to the electoral roll, potentially making a huge difference in future elections. One investigation of felon records found that 52% were Democrats, 33% were independents with no party affiliation and only 14% were Republicans.
Univision News interviewed half a dozen Hispanic ex-convicts who each spent more than a decade in jail. Since their release they have led exemplary lives. They call themselves "returning citizens" as a reference to the loss of civil rights that are now being restored.