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

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An estimated 1.5 million convicted felons in Florida are now eligible to vote, thank to the passing of Amendment 4, which restores voting rights for people who have completed all their time served surrounding their particular crime.

It excludes those convicted of murder or sex offenses.

Washington Shores resident and convicted felon Eugene Booker said he’s grateful to have a voice again.

Booker was in and out of prison for more than 20 years for drug-related crimes.

“The part of life that I was living, a lot of people haven't experienced it. It's a hell of an experience,” he said.

After serving a total of 11 years behind bars, he said he understands the desire for a second chance.

“You lose everything,” he said.

The right to cast a ballot was one of those losses Booker never thought he'd have back until Florida voters proved him wrong Tuesday night.

“It gave me hope that in the future, things will get better,” Booker said.

If even a third of the nearly 1.5 million people this law potentially affects go to the polls, that's nearly half a million new Florida voters.

“I stopped smoking cigarettes. I stopped doing drugs. I stopped doing a lot of things,” said Booker. “I made a lot of mistakes. I'm trying to correct them now. I don't know if it's too late to correct them.”

Now 65 and battling heart failure, Booker hopes sharing his struggle and now his voice in his first vote, can make a difference

“I've got quite a bit of experience that I can share with other people and hopefully do them some good,” he said

Just like any citizen, those who are eligible now must register to vote before the next election.

Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union said if any challenges come into this process, it's confident the strong language of the law will give them an equally strong weapon in the courts.