Newly enfranchised felons could flip Florida in 2020

Published: Nov. 7, 2018 at 5:14 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

November 7, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- As many as 1.5 million Floridians are now eligible to vote with the passage of Amendment 4.

Felons, excluding murderers and sex offenders, who have completed their sentence and paid their fines will now automatically have their voting rights restored.

Florida State University offers one of the only classes taught on Florida’s Executive Clemency Process. It's offered to students in the College of Law, the College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs and the College of Social Work.

With Amendment 4’s passage Tuesday night, Wednesday's lesson plan changed to a discussion around the newly enfranchised population in the state.

“How many of those that may be eligible actually choose to exercise the right to vote remains to be seen," said Professor and Human Rights Attorney Mark Schlakman.

Students shared their thoughts in class, raising the same questions on the minds of many Florida politicians.

“I don't know if a lot of people would even want to vote when they get their rights regained," said Political Science senior Allison Hanley.

“You might have been living for 30 years knowing like, 'Hey, I can't vote why pay attention to politics, why be engaged in that?'" said another Poli Sci senior, Kimberlee McMillin.

Whether the newly enfranchised will choose to exercise their right to vote is still an open-ended question. Political insiders, like GOP Strategist Mac Stipanovich, say the burden falls on the political parties to register them.

“You've got to reach them to get registered, then you've got to reach them to get them to vote," said Stipanovich.

Even if only a small fraction cast ballots, it could turn the tables in 2020.

“We're talking about a state wherein hotly-contested statewide races are often decided by 100,000 votes or less," said Stipanovich. "So, a pool of a potential 1.5 million votes is pretty significant.”

It's highly contested as to what the political leanings of the newly enfranchised population are. While African Americans were disproportionately prohibited from voting, Whites make up a higher percentage of the total population.

The State Board of Executive Clemency will still have the final say on restoring other rights, like the ability to own a firearm.

The process is in the hands of the newly-elected governor and cabinet, who are all Republicans.

A pending federal lawsuit is challenging the constitutionality of the clemency process put in place under Governor Rick Scott for being too subjective. Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, who opposed Amendment 4, has said he believes in a more objective process.