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Florida Restores Voting Rights To 1.4 Million Citizens

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - More than 64 percent of Florida voters voted in favor of Amendment 4 in Tuesday's general election restoring voting rights to 1.4 million citizens.

Just like that, Florida automatically increased the number of eligible voters in the state by more than 10 percent overnight.

"This was not a political vote. It was a vote of love," said Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the non-profit group that spearheaded to put the amendment change on the ballot.

Only 60 percent support was needed for the amendment to pass.

Valencia Gunder, the coalition organizer with the new Florida majority said, "Yesterday when we were canvassing, people were saying, 'we can't vote, we can't vote,' so I said to them in a few hours that's going to change.

Andrea Mercado, executive director of the new Florida Majority said, "We knocked on over 1.5 million doors, we texted and phone called millions of people across the state of Florida."

"Nit everybody served time, not everybody went to prison," Gunder added.

"This is going to bring more progressive people to the forefront and get them to the polls and that' going to change the way we make decisions for or community," Gunder said.

Before the amendment passed, more than 6 million U.S. citizens did not have the right to vote due to state laws that limited the voting rights of people who have been convicted of a felony.

Before the November 2018 election, Florida was one of only four states that had no automatic process for restoring voting rights.

Under Florida's old system, a citizen with a felony conviction could only have their voting rights restored by applying to the Executive Clemency Board – a four-member panel including both the governor and the attorney general. The clemency board was allowed to reject applications for any reason, and was known to ask applicants questions about their family, religion, and even traffic violations.

Under outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, the clemency board approved fewer than 2,000 restorations of voting rights over six years. They had a backlog of more than 10,000 applications.

Given these strict laws, more than 1.6 million voting-age citizens in Florida did not have the right to vote – including more than 1 out of every 5 black citizens statewide.

Though the newly elected DeSantis opposed Amendment 4, his Executive Clemency Board will no longer have power over voting rights for all people previously convicted of felonies. Instead, voting rights will now be automatically restored at the end of an individual's probation period. This change applies to all felonies except for murder and sex crimes.

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