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Florida lawmakers stall process to restore voting rights to felons

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Florida lawmakers might not be ready to put Amendment 4 — a measure approved by 64.5% of Florida voters that would give voting rights back to most felons who have completed their sentences — into action.

According to WFTV 9, a local news station in Florida, the state has put enforcement of the amendment on pause until the new governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, is sworn in. WFTV reported that lawmakers are waiting to see if the Florida Legislature might need to weigh in on the measure. The amendment, which would restore voting rights to more than 1.5 million felons, does not call for any involvement of this kind.

In Florida, 23% of African-American adults cannot vote due to a previous felony conviction. Amendment 4, the measure that would change that, received wide support among residents in a state with strict clemency laws. It was scheduled to take effect on January 8.

Now, Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles told WFTV that “it could be that the new governor and secretary of state have a new direction” regarding the establishment of the measure.

Read more: The evolution of American voting rights in 242 years shows how far we’ve come — and how far we still have to go

“So, it’s just going to be a wait and see,” Cowles said, adding that state lawmakers have put a pause on checking any packets of information about the measure since December 1.

Last week, Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Republican, told reporters that it would be “inappropriate” for the state to “to charge off without direction from” the legislature. The ballot language, he argued, is unclear. Democratic state Sen. Darryl Rouson, a former prosecuting attorney, told the Florida Phoenix that he “would dislike the Legislature from taking any steps that might be perceived as thwarting or slowing down the voter’s intent.”

For his part, DeSantis, who opposed the measure, told the Palm Beach Post that the amendment should not be put into effect until after the he and the state legislature approve “implementing language.” The 60-day legislative session in the state begins March 5.

“There’s no way you can go through this session without implementing it,” he said.

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