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Fact checking Florida's Amendment 4, which could restore felon voting rights

Posted: 2:37 PM, Oct 31, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-31 18:37:37Z

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- You won't just be voting for candidates on Tuesday; there are also a number of constitutional amendments on the ballot.

This morning, we continue our fact-checking partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University to look at an amendment that could drastically change how many people can vote in our state.

Professor Lyn Millner gave her class an assignment last week to complete a scavenger hunt about Amendment 4 .  As she wrote to Fox 4 in an email, "this amendment (more than some others) is likely to be an emotional/personal decision for many voters." 

So Lyn wanted the students to consider their personal bias, while challenging those feelings with verifiable fact.

As the students did their work, we did our own in the Fox 4 newsroom.

The amendment is refreshingly straightforward.  It would restore voting rights to about 1.5 million Floridians with felony convictions.  Murderers and sex offenders would not be eligible.

Students Roni Mahoney and Seth Tanenhaus took a video for us. “And it has the map of the convicted felons who are allowed to vote."

Their small group found a map that shows Florida is one of four states where felons only regain the right to vote if a state board gives approval.  Everywhere else, it happens automatically.

We wanted to take a look at the current law, so you know what you're voting to change.  Right now, felons have wait five to seven years after their sentence to request that the Executive Clemency Board restore their voting rights.

It's the board and the governor who decide on every request, and it doesn't happen that often.

Since Rick Scott took office, more than 30,000 felons have applied, and 3,000 have had their voting rights restored.

Supporters of the amendment say that shows the current law is too complicated and unfair.

But critics point to numbers from the Department of Corrections which show that on average, about a quarter of felons commit another crime within three years.

There are all kinds of theories with this amendment.  Some say it will help the economy, some argue it will help one party over another.

But the bottom line, as Lyn told her students, likely depends on your personal feelings about crime and second chances.