Florida Restores Voting Rights to Former Prisoners
On Election Day, Floridians amended their state constitution to automatically restore voting rights to 1.5 million former prisoners.
Charles Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship®, was a long-time Florida resident unable to vote because of his criminal record. He recognized that disenfranchisement belittles our justice system and tramples on the inherent dignity of all people. He once wrote,
Sound public policy would teach us that if we want to turn ex-offenders into responsible citizens, we must demand of them responsible behavior. And once they demonstrate responsible behavior, what possible justification is there, beyond scoring political points during an election, for stripping them of their civil rights for the rest of their lives?"
While people should be held accountable for their actions, they should also be allowed to live as responsible citizens once their punishment is complete. Disenfranchisement creates second class citizens and devalues our nation.
Now, millions of Floridians have had their voting rights restored. While this is an incredible step forward for second chances, there is still plenty of work to be done.
Prisoners will still find themselves limited because of their past crimes. They will struggle to find housing and employment because of collateral consequences and the stigma our society places on former prisoners.
But today, they have the right to vote in Florida. Today, they have the right to have a say in their government. Today, they are fully enfranchised citizens.