DeSantis: Felons Voting Rights Amendment Shouldn’t Be Implemented Until He Signs Bill

Dec 14, 2018

In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Florida Governor-elect, Ron DeSantis, said that Amendment 4, approved by 64.55 percent of the state’s voters, should not go into effect until “implementing language” is approved by the Legislature and then signed by him.

DeSantis opposed Amendment 4, which will restore voting rights for most ex-felons who have served their sentences. Now that it has passed he says the Legislature will have to implement it.

“They’re going to be able to do that in March,” DeSantis told the Palm Beach Post, speaking of the state’s annual 60-day legislative session which officially kicks off on March 5. “There’s no way you can go through this session without implementing it.”

But that might mean qualifying felons would in effect be barred from voting in Jacksonville’s next election.

The voter registration deadline for Duval County’s first unitary election is February 19.

According to Michael Binder, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Florida, this is nothing out of the ordinary. “When ballot measures get passed and members that are in office are opposed to them, they drag their feet on implementation.”

“They did that with medical marijuana and I would imagine they would try to do this with Amendment 4,” he said. “But you’ll see what happened with medical marijuana, you’ll see lawsuits and I can’t imagine a circumstance where the courts aren’t going to order, ‘Hey, you need to do this and you need to do this now.’”

Amendment 4 advocates say the law doesn’t require additional legislation and it should take effect in January. On Thursday, the ACLU of Florida sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, urging him to take steps to ensure that Amendment 4 is implemented by January 8.

“Amendment 4 is self-executing and should not be impeded or delayed,” wrote ACLU of Florida Interim Executive Director Melba Pearson. “That is the will of Florida voters.”

Binder said the amendment will be implemented, it’s just a matter of how long it will take and how difficult DeSantis and his allies make the process.

“Republicans are fearful that a million plus people are going to register and they’re not going to vote for them. So they want to prevent that from happening,” said Binder. “Democrats and Republicans and people in office have been doing this for as long as America’s been around. Nobody wants to expand the franchise unless they think it’s going to help them. Republicans currently in office are fearful that it won’t help them so they want to make it more difficult.”

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.