Felon voting rights restoration vote to make November ballot

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 23, 2018, 5:04 PM EST

A group hoping to restore felons' voting rights has enough signatures to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot, according to the Department of State.

The group Floridians for a Fair Democracy has 799,000 certified signatures, which is 33,000 more than what is needed to get on the ballot, according to the department's website.

The measure would need to be approved by 60 percent of voters. It would automatically restore voting rights for most felons who have completed their sentences, including probation. It would not restore voting rights for convicted murderers or those convicted of a sexual offense.

If it passes, almost 1.5 million former felons would have their voting rights restored, according to the group. It's the highest disenfranchisement rate in the country. 

The Brennan Center for Justice says Florida is one of only three states in the country to permanently bar residents with felony convictions from voting. 

That could have major implications for the critical swing state of Florida. Felon voting rights restoration is seen as benefiting Democrats, largely because blacks are disproportionately affected by the ban, and they tend to overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

Currently, former felons have a path to get voting rights restored, but it's not automatic. It requires the person to appear before a clemency board made up of Florida's cabinet and headed by Gov. Rick Scott, which often denies the felon.

The Brennan Center says that between 2011 and 2015, the clemency board had restored voting rights to fewer than 2,000 Floridians, while the disenfranchised population grew by nearly 150,000. 

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.