• 9 Investigates: Despite amendment, state takes 'pause' on restoring rights to felons

    By: Christopher Heath

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Amendment 4, the automatic restoration of voting rights to felons, was approved by 64.5 percent of Florida voters.

     

    However, state leaders might not be ready to give in to the will of the voters.

     

    Florida’s county supervisors of elections were recently informed by the state that it’s taking a pause until the new governor is sworn in, adding that the Florida Legislature might need to weigh in; something for which the amendment does not call.

     

    “It could be that the new governor and secretary of state have a new direction. So, it’s just going to be a wait and see,” Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said. “Just the verbal that they have put a 'pause' on checking any packets of information since December 1.”


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    The Florida Department of State wrote in an email to 9 Investigates about what it has planned:

     

    “Under the Florida Constitution, Amendment 4 will take effect on January 8, 2019. The Florida Department of State will abide by any future direction from the Executive Clemency Board or the Florida Legislature regarding necessary action or implementing legislation to ensure full compliance with the law.”

     

    Secretary of State Ken Detzner has served under Jeb Bush and Rick Scott but is expected to step down in 2019, allowing incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis to appoint his own person to the position. That person would have some authority over how involved the state is in the implementation of the amendment.   

     

    Read:  Amendment 4 gives non-violent felons a voice in their future

     

    Cowles and other supervisors of elections said that despite the lack of guidance from the state, they will accept voter registrations from felons starting Jan. 8 and process them normally. 

     

    However, Cowles warns that it is unclear what the state will do on its end. If the new administration in Tallahassee asked for guidance from the Florida Legislature, it could be months before the situation is resolved, since the Legislature does not meet until March, Cowles said.

     

    “As far as the office is concerned, when a voter checks the box, they have had their rights restored. The application will go through the verification process. The state (Department of Corrections, most likely) will verify their sentence has been completed and rights have been restored,” Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis said. “There isn't much that should change on our end.”

     

    In Florida, it is estimated that as many as 1.6 million people would be eligible to have their rights restored under Amendment 4.


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