Amendment 4 on the Florida election ballot: What you need to know

Here's what to know about perhaps the most widely-publicized Constitutional amendment.
Published Nov. 5, 2018

Florida voters will decide on 12 proposed Constitutional amendments on Nov. 6. To read about all of them, click here. (Amendments require the support of 60 percent of Florida voters to be added to the state Constitution.)

Read more: The Constitutional amendments on Florida's ballot, explained

If you haven't been following the political battle over Amendment 4 — a proposal that's garnered national attention — we're here to help you catch up.

What does Amendment 4 do? 

This is the language that would be added to the Florida Constitution under Amendment 4, with the key section underlined:

Article VI, Section 4. Disqualifications.—
(a) No person convicted of a felony, or adjudicated in this or
any other state to be mentally incompetent, shall be qualified to
vote or hold office until restoration of civil rights or removal of
disability. Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section,
any disqualification from voting arising from a felony conviction
shall terminate and voting rights shall be restored upon
completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation.
(b) No person convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense
shall be qualified to vote until restoration of civil rights
(c) No person may appear on the ballot for re-election to any of
the following offices:
(1) Florida representative,
(2) Florida senator,
(3) Florida Lieutenant governor,
(4) any office of the Florida cabinet,
(5) U.S. Representative from Florida, or
(6) U.S. Senator from Florida
if, by the end of the current term of office, the person will have
served (or, but for resignation, would have served) in that office
for eight consecutive years.

In layman's terms, the proposal would restore voting rights to convicted felons who have completed their sentences. It would not apply to felons convicted of murder or felony sex crimes.

Who is in favor of this change, and who is against it? 

Amendment 4 was added to the ballot earlier this year after supporters of the measure gathered the signatures of almost 800,000 registered voters. It has the support of criminal justice reform advocates from across the political spectrum, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative Koch brothers-backed group, Freedom Partners. The measure has also gotten a number of celebrity endorsements, including from pop mega-stars John Legend and Rihanna.

Supporters say the measure would provide a much-needed change to Florida's rights restoration process. As it stands, convicted felons have to wait five years after serving their sentences to re-apply for the right to vote. Then they must appear before a panel of Florida Cabinet-level elected officials that seldom meets, and the governor must personally approve their petition to have their rights restored.

That system currently leaves an estimated 1.5 million Floridians without the right to vote — a group which, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis, is disproportionately black and Democratic-leaning.

Amendment 4 detractors like Gov. Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, say Amendment 4 would make it too easy for undeserving ex-convicts to get their rights back. DeSantis says he favors a more streamlined approach to rights restoration than currently exists, but he doesn't believe ex-felons should get his or her rights back automatically like they would under Amendment 4.

What's at stake? 

If Amendment 4 is approved by 60 percent of Florida voters, it will be added to the state Constitution. That's a big deal, because the Florida Constitution lays out how the Florida government is to function.

What you need to read