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Voting Rights Advocates Await FL Supreme Court Decision And What Comes After

Florida is one of three states where formerly convicted felons must petition before a clemency board to have their civil rights restored. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Florida is one of three states where formerly convicted felons must petition before a clemency board to have their civil rights restored. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The proposed constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to formerly convicted felons across Florida reached a milestone on Monday by making it to the state Supreme Court. But the attorney who defended the proposal before the court says being granted a hearing is half the battle.

Attorney Jon Mills answered questions from the court about whether the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment was clear and what the actual process would be for restoring rights to formerly convicted felons. That process, he said, would entail the person going to his or her designated elections office; submitting a voter registration form; and indicating that he or she has fulfilled any mandated sentencing requirements.

"I think they understood it, and I’m hopeful," Mills said of the court.

No opposition was filed to be presented during oral arguments and Attorney General Pam Bondi declined to comment on the proposal. Florida’s supervisors of elections have submitted a memorandum of support.

"Never made it this far and could make a difference," said Mills. "But, ultimately, it's still up to the people to vote for this."

He expects the court could make its decision within the next month.

Pending that decision he and other advocates would need 700,000 signatures for it to appear on the ballot and go before voters.

Ex-felons would be ineligible to sign the petitions under the very state law that is being challenged.

Florida is one of three states that permanently disenfranchises formerly convicted felons. They must go before the governor and his cabinet to have them restored in a process that can take years.

The proposed constitutional amendment excludes ex-felons convicted of murder and sexual offenses.