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Florida Republicans Dragging Feet on Restoring Voting Rights to Convicted Felons


Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who just won the U.S. Senate race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, is apparently exercising what’s left of his gubernatorial authority. If you were reading Law&Crime on Election Day, you would have noticed that Florida voters decided to pass Amendment 4, or the Voting Restoration Amendment, restoring voting rights to felons who were not convicted of murder or sex offenses.

This development was an interesting one at the time for a couple of reasons: First, this would mean that roughly 1.5 million more Floridians would be eligible to vote in 2020. Second, Rick Scott may very well have lost his most recent campaign if the convicted felons were allowed to vote.

Ahead of Republican Ron DeSantis‘ stint as Florida governor, people who report to Scott appear to be pumping the brakes on Amendment 4.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that, in advance of Amendment 4 going into effect in the new year, Scott’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner is saying that he has some issues with the rollout of the project. Detzner also suggested that it is concerning that the legislature hasn’t weighed in on Amendment 4.

“We need to get some direction from [lawmakers] as far as implementation and definitions — all the kind of things that the supervisors were asking,” Detzner said. “It would be inappropriate for us to charge off without direction from them.”

The response resulted in some backlash.

Manatee County Supervisor Mike Bennett, for one, said, “It’s typical. It’s going to hit the fan.” Others criticized the state for not giving any direction. One line from the Tampa Bay Times story is particularly inciting ire:

Counties wanted clear direction from the state. But the state’s position is that the Legislature should have a voice — the same Legislature that for decades refused to address the issue of felons’ voting rights, which prompted advocates to collect enough voters’ signatures to force a statewide referendum, bypassing the Legislature.

It’s not even clear to some Florida lawmakers if they need to weigh in on Amendment 4. The perception is that Republicans in power are stalling or attempting to subvert the will of voters.

[Image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.