Voting rights campaigners gathered enough signatures on Tuesday to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would restore the voting rights of 1.5 million felons, the Orlando Sentinel reported. If it passes, the amendment would enfranchise scores of African-American voters who have the potential of swinging elections in favor of Democrats.
Tears came to the eyes of Desmond Meade, the former felon who spearheaded the signature campaign. “As someone directly impacted, I cannot quantify the level of emotion moving through me right now,” said Meade, who was ineligible to vote for his wife when she ran for a seat in the Florida state House.
His organization, Floridians for Fair Democracy, helped to gather more than 799,000 certified signatures, one week before the deadline to get the required 766,000 signatures. On Nov. 6, at least 60 percent of voters must approve the proposed amendment for it to pass. Currently, Floridians convicted of a felony must apply to the governor to have their voting rights restored, a goal that relatively few achieve.
This could have a major political impact in a state that President Donald Trump won just 1.3 percent more votes than Hillary Clinton. Florida, which bars more felons from voting than any other state, currently blocks 21.5 percent of African Americans from voting. Indeed, these felony disenfranchisement laws were historically intended to reduce Black voting power. There’s plenty of reason for Republicans to stay awake at night worrying about the potential political impact of this ballot measure. If voting rights are restored, an estimated 258,060 felons would register as Democrats and just 46,920 would join the Republican Party, according to a study reported by the Sentencing Project.