Opinion: Florida amendment corrects a necessary element of democracy: voting rights
Updated: Feb 8, 2019
Polls are closed and Americans anxiously watch newly elected officials prepare for their upcoming terms. As Democrats took the House of Representative, Republicans maintained a majority in the Senate. But the American people voted on more than just elected officials; they also casted their votes for amendments to state constitutions.
Florida had 12 proposed amendments in its state ballot this election, ranging from dog racing to vaping indoors. Eleven out of the 12 passed. Of those 11, Amendment four passed to restore voting rights to felons, excluding those convicted of murder or sexual offenses.
Before Election day, Florida was one of four states in the United States to bar felons from voting after serving a jail sentence. An arbitrary state clemency board was the only way felons could hope of having their right restored. But felons still legally had to wait five years before appealing.
This amendment ensures democracy will flourish in Florida and the views of the people will be heard. The right to vote is a fundamental element of being American and of being human according to our founding documents. A mistake should not strip a man or woman from their right to voice an opinion. If we strip away the right to vote, our nation cannot stand.
Yet, the exception in the amendment for people convicted of murder or sexual offenses is justified. These violent crimes indicate an individual is not pursuing the common welfare of the American people. However, even these ex-convicts can appeal for rights to vote, in which their specific case will be deliberated by state elected officials on the clemency board.
Former convicts still have a voice, they still have concerns, and they still are American people. Why should the government dictate which Americans can vote? The Constitution and its amendments have decreed each American citizen over the age of 18 can vote without discrimination.
Residents of Florida voted to let democracy flourish. The state has joined most of the nation in ensuring convicts, like their American brothers, can do the crime, pay the time, but maintain their rights.