Push to restore felons' voting rights

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Commissioners on the Constitution Revision Commission have withdrawn a proposal to automatically restore felons' rights after they've paid their debt to society after an identical proposal got enough signatures to make it onto the ballot.

The legislature could still act on the issue before November.

The Florida Second Chances Amendment received more than 800,000 valid signatures, guaranteeing its spot on the November ballot.

Amendment Four automatically restores a felon's right to vote after they've completed their prison sentence, along with any parole or probation.

"[The idea is] only restoring voting rights, not firearms, not jury service, and not seeking office," explained Clemency Lawyer Reggie Garcia.

Because the measure is on the ballot, commissioners on the Constitution Revision Commission are pulling an identical proposal.

"People of Florida will finally have the opportunity to decide the question for themselves," said Commissioner Arthenia Joyner.

There are a number of proposals aimed at changing the clemency process in the legislature. Sponsors of the CRC proposal want lawmakers to drop their proposals as well.

"We saw what happened this year when we had competing solar amendments. There was a lot of confusion no matter where you fell on the issue. So, not to have any confusion that's why we withdrew ours and we call on the legislature to do the same," said Commissioner Chris Smith.

Current policy, adopted under Governor Rick Scott, requires felons to wait at least five years before they can apply to have their rights restored.

"No future governor will ever again play with the lives of those who seek redemption just because they can," Joyner said.

Florida is among just three states that don't automatically restore felons' rights. It has the highest disenfranchisement rate in the country.

Amendment Four would restore voting rights to an estimated 1.5 million Floridians.