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Two Constitutional Amendments in Florida Involve Crime and Criminals

Two Constitutional Amendments in Florida Involve Crime and Criminals

If you’re planning to vote in November, Florida has a surprise for you.  This year there are 12 Constitutional amendments on the ballot.  That’s the most since 1998 and probably stems from the fact that the Constitution Revision Commission met this year.

Amendment 4 concerns the restoration of voting rights for felons.  Presently, Florida is one of the more restrictive states concerning felon voting rights.

Upon conviction of a felony, the civil rights of the person convicted shall be suspended in Florida until such rights are restored by a full pardon, conditional pardon, or restoration of civil rights by the governor (Flor. Const. Art. 4 § 8, F.S.A. § 944.292). The Executive Clemency Board sets the rules for restoration of civil rights, which includes a 5- or 7-year waiting period, depending on the seriousness of the offense. There is a list of crimes for which an individual may never apply for rights restoration.

The system is the subject of an ongoing, protracted legal battle. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in March struck down the vote restoration system for felons as so arbitrary as to be unconstitutional, but the state won a stay of his injunction as an appeal goes to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Arguments in the legal case were heard in July, but the case is unlikely to be resolved before voters cast their ballots in November. If passed, about 1.5 million people in Florida could be affected.

The other amendment is less controversial but is more complex because it’s what is known as a “bundled” amendment i.e. many issues are rolled into it and the voter can’t vote on single issues, just up or down on the entire amendment.

Amendment 6 would create a bill of rights for crime victims.  The bill of rights, modeled after Marsy’s Law in California, has the support of major Republican and Democratic lawmakers but has drawn criticism that the way victims’ rights are drawn might flood the justice system with additional responsibilities.

In any event, Florida voters will have to study not only the candidates and their positions but the issues involved in the numerous amendments on the ballot this November.

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