Florida approves ballot measure restoring felons' voting rights

Tuesday's elections were seen as a referendum on Trump

Tuesday's elections were seen as a referendum on Trump

The language of the amendment excludes those convicted of murder and serious sexual offenses, but supporters still estimate that over 1 million Floridians who have served time in prison would become newly eligible to vote.

On Tuesday night, voters chose to restore voting rights to almost 1.5 million nonviolent ex-felons in Florida.

"'Kol hakavod' to the Reform Jewish communities in Florida - and across the US - who organized and mobilized to make this happen", the national Religious Action Center said on Twitter, using the Hebrew term for "well done".

The 1.4 million people affected make up almost a tenth of Florida's voting age population, implying potentially serious changes for the 2020 elections in this critical swing state.

Florida started permanently barring felons from voting after the Civil War as Congress forced states to ratify the 13th and 14th Amendments guaranteeing all men the right to vote.

"If we want people returning to society to be productive, law abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens", Freedom Partners Chairman Mark Holden wrote in his endorsement.

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Meade, an Orlando resident, led the effort to put Amendment 4 on the ballot this year by gathering at least 766,200 verified signatures, after previous legislators failed to push the measure beyond the Supreme Court.

"This is transformative in Florida", Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida tells TIME.

Per usual, the key races in Florida are nail biters.

Before Tuesday, the only way a person with a prior felony conviction could vote was through the state's clemency system, spearheaded by the governor. Instead, the current system requires felons who have completed their sentences to wait five years and then seek clemency from the governor and Cabinet. A disproportionate share of those arrested and incarcerated in Florida are minorities, particularly African Americans.

The passage of Amendment Four with the support of 64 percent of voters could reverberate beyond Florida into the 2020 presidential election because of the outsize role the battleground state often plays in deciding close national elections. "We brought together people through all walks of life and all backgrounds to come together and say when a debt is paid, it's paid". While more than 150,000 people had their voting rights restored under Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott's predecessor, that number dwindled to just a few thousand under Scott.

Those were the first notable results as voters in 37 states considered an array of intriguing ballot measures - ranging from marijuana legalization to boosting the minimum wage to civil rights protections for transgender people.

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