Amendment 4 allows for the automatic restoration of a felon’s voting rights (with exceptions for those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses) after completing all sentencing terms, including restitution, parole, or probation.
The Criminal Justice system rightly holds offenders accountable for their misdeeds; however, punishment should include a constructive and redemptive purpose. This is in the best interest of society — for most ex-offenders, once they have served their sentences, will return to society.
Society should look to reintegrate them and afford them the opportunity to participate fully in the life of their communities once they have paid their debt and are released. Restoring their right to vote is a meaningful step in this direction.
Florida has long been an extreme outlier — one of only four states that does not allow the automatic restoration of a felon’s voting rights after the completion of his/her sentence.
Currently in Florida, voting rights can only be restored after applying to the governor and cabinet, who act as a clemency board.
Earlier this year, the U.S. courts found this cumbersome and inefficient arrangement unconstitutional.
A constitutional amendment is perhaps not the most ideal way to ensure restoration of voting rights, but it is today the only practical way — and certainly it is better for voters to decide than judges “legislating from the bench.”
A “Yes” vote on Amendment 4 might pose some short-term challenges for one political party or the other; but, in the long term, it is the just thing to do.
Most Rev. Thomas Wenski,
Archbishop of Miami