Voting booths in Leon County, in Florida’s state capital. Credit: Mitch Perry.
Freedom Partners, a Virginia-based libertarian group funded by the nationally known Koch Industries, is endorsing Amendment 4 in Florida, the measure that would automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons.
“We believe that when individuals have served their sentences and paid their debts as ordered by a judge, they should be eligible to vote,” said Mark Holden, and senior vice president of Koch Industries.
Though billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are best known for backing Republican candidates for office, they have also supported efforts to reform the criminal justice system in the U.S. in recent years
“If we want people returning to society to be productive, law abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens,” Holden said, adding that the measure will “make our society suffer, our system more just, and provide for real second chances for returning citizens.”
More than 1.5 million Floridians are unable to vote because they have a felony conviction on their record. The only way around Florida’s lifetime ban is making a direct and personal appeal to the governor and members of the Florida Cabinet, which meets just four times a year. There are only three other states in the country with such a policy.
As of the beginning of September, there were 10,246 pending applications for restoration of civil rights before the clemency board, according to the Florida Commission on Offender Review.
Desmond Meade, the chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, the group advocating for Amendment 4, said his organization welcomes the endorsement.
“There is a simple reason why this measure has strong, broad support across the ideological spectrum; because Americans believe that when a debt is paid, it’s paid,” he said. “Amendment 4 restores a person’s eligibility to vote only after they have completed all terms of their sentence as ordered by a judge. It fixes a broken system for our family members, friends, and neighbors that have paid their debt in full and have earned the opportunity to participate in and give back to their communities.”
Amendment 4 needs 60 percent of voters to approve it on November 6 to become law.
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