Thousands of former felons in Florida get voting rights restored today

Northwest Florida
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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) —

UPDATE 1:00 PM

William Artis walks out of the Supervisor of Elections Office, fresh from registering to vote for the first time in more than 20 years.  He was the first former felon to register in person on the first day Amendment 4 went into effect.  He said it was very important to him to get registered today.

“I have my opinion about how the country is being ran,” said Artis with a laugh.  A short time later, Michael Hicks was getting ready to register too.

“I haven’t been able to vote since 2007, didn’t know how to vote you know what I’m saying, ain’t nobody helping me, but this here is making a  difference,” said Michael Hicks.    Walking in with Hicks is a highly recognizable former felon, former Mobile County Commissioner Steve Nodine.  He’s now a Florida resident who’s proud to flash his brand new voter ID card.  

“Airbus, ThyssenKrupp, Austal, a lot of great successes, today is probably the best day I’ve had in ten years,” said Nodine.  He says he immediately registered to vote in Jupiter, Florida and lays claim as the first felon in that area to get his rights restored thanks to Amendment 4.  He helped found Second Chance Voters, advocating for former felons.  

“Being involved in your community and being able to vote for your leaders will do more for prison reform and help stop this horrible recidivism rate,” said Nodine.  Incoming Governor Ron DeSantis has said he’d like the legislature to weigh in with some sort of bill clearly outlining how Amendment 4 will be implemented.  At this point, it’s not entirely clear what it means for a felon to “serve their sentence” and what exact offenses keep people permanently barred from the polls.   At this time, Escambia County and other offices are accepting applications for processing.  
 

ORIGINAL STORY 5:00 AM

More than one million former felons across the state of Florida are allowed to register to vote beginning today.  Amendment 4 passed by a wide margin back in November.

The big question today is how many ex-cons will take advantage of their new rights.  Another lingering issue is how such a potentially large influx of voters will affect the electoral college in 2020.  

We may get at least a little bit of an answer to the first question today.  The doors open at the Supervisor of Elections Office in Escambia County at 8 this morning.  While some people may show up in person, it seems more likely that most would register online.  

Officials here have no idea how many former felons may register in Escambia County.  They do keep track of how many newly convicted people are removed from the voter rolls.  Every six months they submit a report to the state.  According to data from the Supervisor of Elections Office in Escambia County more than 1,400 people in Escambia County were stripped of their voting rights because of convictions since 2015.  It’s an average of 246 people every six months.  

While the Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis suggested legislation was needed before moving forward on Amendment 4, it seems like supervisors across the state will allow registration of former felons on the date the amendment was set to take effect.  

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