Florida Restores Voting Rights to More Than 1.4 Million Ex-Felons

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Florida voters have approved a ballot initiative which provides former felons with the right to vote, re-enfranchising 1.4 million people.

With passage of the amendment, Florida joins the ranks of dozens of American cities and states that have been relaxing restrictions on voting for former prisoners in recent years.

Under the new system, residents will automatically get their right to vote back after they complete their sentences, with exceptions for people convicted of murder and felony sex offenses. You think about 1.4 million people who have been denied the right, even though they have done everything they can. It was the first-ever statewide vote on this question, occurring as President Donald Trump's administration moves to weaken civil rights protections for transgender Americans. Voters there upheld a law allowing use of state money to pay for low-income women to have abortions, and also reaffirmed a "sanctuary state" law forbidding law enforcement agencies from using state resources or personnel to arrest people whose only crime is being in the US illegally.

At least 60 percent of voters had to approve it for Amendment 4 to become law.

Previously, Florida was one of three states-along with Iowa and Kentucky-that barred anyone who has committed a felony from voting.

Defenders of the previous law, like Richard Harrison, of the Florida Rights Coalition, argued that the amendment fails to take into consideration the harm done to victims, the felon's post-release conduct and other factors. Four out of the five counties with the most felons tend to vote Democrat.

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Florida has not taken advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that essentially legalizes betting on sports teams.

"Tonight, in an historic vote, Florida voters have delivered a knock-out blow to a cruel industry that has been hurting and killing dogs for almost a century", the Yes on 13 campaign wrote in a statement.

But even after Amendment 4, advocates say there is still more work ahead.

What's going on: The Sunshine State has been turning heads with what has been labeled by some as this year's "most bizarre" ballot initiative. "One of the most important of our lifetime", social activist Shaun King tweeted. In Virginia, however, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has continued a policy begun under his predecessor of personally aggressively restoring voting rights to people with felony convictions.

A Suffolk University poll of 500 voters showed strong support for the amendment, according to News-Press.