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Florida Senate committee to take up Amendment 4 debate today

An amendment filed Friday would allow thousands more ex-felons to vote.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, addresses a joint session of the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee on March 5. (SCOTT KEELER | Times)
Published Mar. 25

The debate over how to carry out Amendment 4 continues today in the Florida Senate, where a committee is scheduled to take up its own bill for the first time.

The historic amendment, passed by voters in November, would allow more than a million ex-felons be eligible to vote, as long as they’ve completed their sentence and weren’t convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.

But lawmakers have been debating over what it means to complete someone’s sentence, what “murder” means and what a “sexual offense” is.

READ MORE: Under Florida’s Amendment 4, can felons afford to vote?

Last week, a Florida House committee approved its own version, which took a broad view of “sexual offenses," to include prostitution, and required felons pay back all court fees, fines and restitution before being eligible.

It was blasted by critics across the country as a “poll tax” and another way in which Florida’s Republican-led Legislature was trying to keep people from voting.

The Senate is taking up the debate for the first time today. The Senate’s version isn’t as broad, but its definition of “murder” includes attempted murder and manslaughter.

And it’s likely to be narrowed even further. The bill’s two Republican co-sponsors added an amendment that would allow thousands more felons to vote.

The amendment, which is scheduled to be taken up today, defines “murder” and “sexual offense” more narrowly than it did before.

And it also allows ex-felons to vote if their court fees and crimes have been converted to a civil lien, which often happens. Restitution to victims, however, would have to be paid back in full before they could be eligible to vote.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets at 1:30 p.m. today. You can watch it online at thefloridachannel.org.

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