Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Felon voting rights, casino amendments OK for 2018, says court


The Florida Supreme Court has given its approval for the ballot language for a proposed amendment to the state constitution which would automatically restore the right to vote for many people with past felony convictions.

"Read together, the title and summary would reasonably lead voters to understand that the chief goal of the amendment is to automatically restore voting rights to felony offenders, except those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses, upon completion of all terms of their sentence".

The group proposing the ballot initiative still needs to gather almost 700,000 voter signatures.

The court ruled Thursday that the initiative can be put on the 2018 ballot with its current language.

"The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis", it adds. With the state Supreme Court's approval, activists will now have to work toward getting almost 700,000 signatures on a petition in order to get the measure on the 2018 ballot. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi made it so felons would have to wait at least five years after finishing their sentences before they could apply to vote again. State legislators have considered several proposals to expand, most of which failing to pass. Justice Alan Lawson, who joined the court at end of December, did not take part.

Two Supreme Court justices argued that the amendment was misleading because it is unclear how it would affect counties where voters have approved slot machines for local dog and horse tracks.

But the majority rejected arguments that it should block the measure from going on the ballot.

"The opponents primarily argue that the initiative should not be placed on the ballot because it is unclear whether, if passed, the amendment would apply retroactively and what effect, if any, the amendment would have on gambling that is now legal in Florida -- including gambling that was previously authorized by general law rather than by citizens' initiative", the majority wrote.

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