DeSantis butts heads with lawmakers and election officials on Amendment 4

Published: Dec. 14, 2018 at 5:53 PM CST
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Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis is butting heads with top lawmakers and Elections Supervisors over whether Amendment 4, which restores felons' rights to vote after completing their sentence, is self-implementing or not.

A delay could prevent some felons from voting in two key mayoral races.

More than five million Florida voters approved Amendment 4 in November.

It allows felons who have completed all terms of their sentence to vote, excluding murderers and sex criminals.

DeSantis opposed automatic restoration throughout his campaign.

“I don't want to be giving rights, restoring rights to people who have not proven that they can integrate back into society,” DeSantis said in October.

The amendment takes effect January 8, but DeSantis now says lawmakers need to pass implementing legislation before felons can register.

Lawmakers don’t start their session until early March, so waiting for them to act would delay a felon's ability to register by at least two months.

The delay would potentially block felons from voting in the Jacksonville and Tampa mayoral races in March.

Lawyers for Senate President Bill Galvano say the amendment is most likely self-executing.

“It's something that I want to take another look at, but if I had to err, I would err on the side of it being self-executing,” said Galvano.

Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chair Dennis Baxley says some details need to be worked out.

“If there's any delay it may be just in the validation of eligibility,” said Baxley.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley says DeSantis’ comments won't stop him from registering felons right away.

“The only one that I know that could potentially stop us from doing our job as we see it would be a judge,” said Earley.

Self-implementing or not, the Legislature will likely standardize how state agencies and elections officials to ensure felons are truly eligible to register.

An estimated 1.4 million felons in the state are expected to have their voting rights restored as a result of Amendment 4.