Former Felons in Florida Can Begin Registering to Vote

Former felon Desmond Meade and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, left, arrives with family members at the Supervisor of Elections office, in Orlando, Fla., to register to vote. Former felons in Florida began registering for elections on Tuesday, when an amendment that restores their voting rights went into effect.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Raoux/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The right to vote was restored for most Florida felons as of Tuesday, increasing the pool of eligible voters by as many as 1.4 million people in a battleground state infamous for its narrow margins in key elections. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition planned to get people together over breakfast before registering online or going to their local election supervisors’ offices to fill out the forms.

“We are encouraging our members to celebrate,” said organization’s president, Desmond Meade. “Our members are going into the supervisor of elections with their loved ones. And that is very key— with their loved ones— because we really want to highlight that concept of love.”

“I’ll be a human being again. I’ll be an American citizen again,” Robert Eckford said, choking up and weeping after filling out an application at the elections supervisor’s office in Orlando.

Nearly 65 percent of Florida voters last November approved Amendment 4, which was crafted so it would take effect automatically, without further action needed by lawmakers. The amendment to the state’s constitution applies to all felons who have done their time and completed the terms of their probation and parole, with the exception of people convicted of murder or sex offenses.

Melanie Paine, 32, who planned to register to vote, told the Tampa Bay Times she lost her voting rights after a non-violent drug conviction when she was a college undergraduate.

“It’s huge,” Paine told the paper. “I’m very involved in politics and want to be able to have a say.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida says people don’t need to present proof they completed their sentence — they can simply fill out the existing application, signing under oath that their voting rights have been restored. In a statement released to CBS Miami, Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Christina White said her department’s role remains unchanged. It will continue to rely on voters to indicate on their application they are eligible to vote. The voter’s information will then be sent to the Florida State Division of Elections, which will verify the voter’s identity and eligibility, White said.

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SOURCE: CBS News, The Associated Press