Andrew M. Coffey, P.A.
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Is it time to revisit Florida's stance on voting rights for ex-felons? -- II

Last week, our blog spent some time discussing how unbeknownst to most people, Florida has some of the most draconian voting laws for ex-felons in the entire nation.

Indeed, it's one of only four states mandating that ex-felons who have completed their entire sentence must still file an application to restore their voting rights with a state clemency board, a entity that has proven historically reluctant to allow people to reenter the polling booth.

We also discussed how there is currently a movement underway to restore the right to vote to Florida's ex-felons via an amendment to the state constitution, something we'll examine further in today's post.

How many ex-felons are currently barred from voting here in Florida?

Estimates show that an astounding 1.6 million-plus ex-felons are currently unable to cast their vote in elections owing to a felony record, a considerable percentage in a state whose population was estimated to be just over 20 million as recently as July 2015.

What does the proposed constitutional amendment seek to do?

As written, the constitutional amendment -- supported by advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and Floridians for Fair Democracy -- would require voting rights to be automatically restored to felons following completion of their sentence, including prison sentence, probation and parole.

Those convicted for felony sex crimes or murder would not be covered by the amendment.

What does the process of getting this amendment on the ballot entail?

In order to make it to the ballot, the language of the proposed amendment must be approved by the Florida Supreme Court. In order for this to happen, however, supporters must first gather 68,314 signatures supporting the measure. Reports indicate that this is very close to happening.

If the state's high court ultimately approves the amendment, the next step is to get it on the 2018 ballot by collecting the requisite number of signatures. The amount of signatures it will take to make this happen currently remains unknown, as it will be based on voter turnout from the latest presidential election.

The magic number to get signatures on the 2016 ballot was over 683,000.

If the amendment makes it to the 2018 ballot, how much support does it need to pass?   

State law dictates that the proposed amendment would need to secure at least 60 percent of the vote.

It will be fascinating to see how this unfolds, stay tuned for updates.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you are under investigation or have been charged with any manner of felony, as the stakes are simply too high.

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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