ACLU Statement on Florida Supreme Court Approving Voting Rights Restoration Ballot Language

People vote inside a Miami Dade County fire station on election day Tuesday Nov. 8 2016 in Hialeah Fla. CREDIT AP

People vote inside a Miami Dade County fire station on election day Tuesday Nov. 8 2016 in Hialeah Fla. CREDIT AP

The state's highest court on Thursday gave its approval for proposed state constitutional amendments on voter approval of new gambling and restoring voting rights to ex-cons.

The court ruled Thursday that the initiative can be put on the 2018 ballot with its current language.

"Read together, the title and summary would reasonably lead voters to understand that the chief objective of the amendment is to automatically restore voting rights to felony offenders, except those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses, upon completion of all terms of their sentence". Individuals who committed murder or sexual offenses would still permanently lose their right to vote.

Now that the Supreme Court has approved the ballot language, it means it is all geared up and ready to go for 2018 as long the initiative gathers 700,000 signatures in support of the measure. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has made it more hard for felons to get their rights restored.

In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet ended the automatic restoration of voting and other civil rights to nonviolent felons after their sentences are up, requiring at least a five-year waiting period before ex-convicts can apply to get their rights back. "We look forward to Florida voters being given a chance to bring our state's voting rules out of the 19th century and into the 21st". "The Supreme Court's decision to allow the Voting Restoration Amendment to move forward marks a key milestone on our path to a stronger democracy and a fairer Florida ..." He contended, in part, that the proposal would not fully inform voters about its possible effects on a constitutional amendment passed in 2004 that authorized slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Two Supreme Court justices argued that the amendment was misleading because it is unclear how it would affect counties where voters have approved slot machines for local dog and horse tracks. "However, as the sponsor points out, the opponents' arguments concern the ambiguous legal effect of the amendment's text rather than the clarity of the ballot title and summary".

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