How a local man feels after he gets back his right to vote

Felon Voting Rights Restoration

SARASOTA (WWSB) -While some people may be experiencing voter fatigue after the election earlier this week, one group of people cannot wait for their next chance to go to the polls. We’re talking about Floridians with felony convictions who just got back their right to vote.

"I've been on cloud nine for the past 48 hours now," said Steve Phalen.

Phalen was convicted of first degree arson and second degree reckless public endangerment back in 2005. Since then he has completed his sentence of house arrest and probation, but until the passing of Amendment 4 he hasn't been allowed to vote.

Florida was just one of four states that didn't automatically restore voting rights after felons completed their sentence. But 64% of people who showed up to the polls thought that needed to change.

"Solid gesture from the citizens from the state of Florida who found it in their hearts to say loudly that we do deserve this second chance," Phalen said.

He said this idea of a second chance is hard to come by for people with convictions.

"Living with a felony conviction, that's a stigmatizing identity. It is one that bars access to certain jobs. It is one that carries a sense of distrust whenever this identity comes to light. But knowing that people are willing to grant the second chance it makes having this identity a little less scary when it comes down to my future growth," Phalen said.

With this victory Phalen said he will now be sure that his voice is heard.

"You better believe that I will be participating in every election. As a right that has been taken away, it's one of those things that you don't realize what you've got until it's gone," said Phalen.

This amendment, which was supported by some people on both sides of the isle, automatically goes into place but it does not apply to people who are convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

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