If you’re convicted of a crime, your whole life changes in an instant. You may lose your freedom for months or years—kept away from your loved ones and treated like a second-class citizen.
When you’re finally released, the social marginalization—in many ways—continues. With a criminal record, you may find it difficult to get an apartment, land a job or go back to school. It can seem as though your entire community is constantly penalizing you for a mistake you’ve already paid dearly for.
In Florida, Election Day is an annual reminder to ex-cons that—even though they have paid their debt to society—they are still not entitled to one basic right of the rest of the population: the right to vote. Until now.
In the mid-term elections earlier this month, Floridians overwhelmingly voted “yes” to Amendment 4, allowing ex-felons—with the exception or those convicted of murder and sex crimes—to regain their right to vote as soon as they complete their sentences or go on probation.
Under the previous law, around 1.5 million Floridians—nearly 10 percent of Florida’s adult population—were prohibited from voting. This change in the law is estimated to restore voting rights to approximately 1 million voters.
Across the nation, there is a trend of disproportionately arresting African Americans. Florida’s previous voting ban against ex-felons has prevented 20 percent of the state’s eligible African American voting population from participating in democracy.
The new law goes into effect on January 8, 2019 and represents an important advancement in supporting ex-cons’ reintegration into society.