In most states, people convicted of a felony are not allowed to vote while in prison.
However, also in most states, ex-felons regain their voting rights after leaving prison. In fact, those who have completed their sentences are allowed to vote again in every state in the Union except for Florida, Iowa and Kentucky.
In Florida, there is only one way for an ex-con to regain their voting rights: through a pardon from the state's governor.
But, according The Washington Post, that could soon change.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is taking a stab at revising Florida voting laws by supporting a campaign by making some significant changes to the Constitution. The organization hopes that in doing so, it can add a "Voter Restoration Amendment" on to voters' ballots in November 2018.
And it's not just the ACLU's savvy lawyers that are on the case. It's putting its money in the mix, too.
Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s national political director told The Post, “It’s going to be at least [a] $5 million commitment, maybe more. We’ll build through the end of the year, and to get the signatures we need to get on the ballot, we’re looking at a million.”
At the moment, an estimated 1.68 million Florida residents are unable to vote due to having once been in jail. Both The Intercept and Miami Herald report that nearly 25 percent of Florida's adult black population cannot vote due to the state's prison voting laws.
The Voter Restoration Amendment would explicitly return their ballots to them with the following language: "any disqualification from voting arising from a felony conviction shall terminate and voting rights shall be restored upon completion of all terms of a sentence including parole or probation."
As a nod to those that feel that some crimes are so heinous that voting rights should be permanently lost, Shakir said that sexual and murder offenders would be dealt with under separate rules.
The ACLU has a long road ahead of it, particularly because the felon voting law has been in place since 1868.
“The origin of this was Reconstruction-era legislators saying: Let’s put in a measure to prevent African Americans from voting,” Shakir said. “We’re coming up on 150 years later, and even after coming out of the system, former felons are deemed to be second-class citizens.”
The $5 million that the ACLU plans to spend will go to paying people to gather the signatures needed to get the amendment on the ballot. Once on the ballot, 60 percent of Floridians would need to vote for the amendment before the Constitution could be changed.
Should the ACLU be successful, a lot could change for the state.
The amendment would go into effect before the 2020 presidential election, making Florida even more of a swing state, and the Republican party's stranglehold on the governor's mansion could be put into question. According to The Herald, the last two gubernatorial elections were decided by just 60,000 votes.