SARASOTA (WWSB) -The voting rights of 1.5 million felons are being restored today in Florida.
Voters approved Amendment 4 last November which allows felons with convictions other than murder and sex crimes to vote again. Before the amendment passed, former felons had to wait at least five years after completing their sentences, then ask the state’s clemency board to restore their rights.
In Sarasota County alone, nearly 65% of voters said Yes to Amendment 4.
Groups advocating for felon restoration rights held a press conference this Tuesday morning outside the Sarasota County’s Supervisor of Elections Office with several local felons who registered to vote. All of them excited to be able to have a second chance.
At least 28 people registered as soon as doors opened this Tuesday morning at the elections office, including Vietnam Veteran Allen Rhyelle who was the first convicted felon in line to get his voting rights restored.
“It makes me feel good that I’m able to come back. You don’t realize the vote power you have and everything until you lose it and then you have to try to get it back and it makes me feel bubbly inside knowing everyone is going to get back to a normalcy," says Ryhelle.
Today’s press conference was spearheaded not only by the elections office but Demetrius Jifunza. Nearly 20 years ago at the age of 18 he was convicted and charged with armed robbery. He served his time but has never had the chance to vote.
Now as an advocate for felon restoration rights, he is bringing national attention on the issue and to Sarasota County. His fight for himself and others will be showcased on HBO’s Vice.
Former felons can register at all three election offices in Sarasota, North Port and Venice as well as the Manatee County Supervisor’s Office.
All you have to do is make sure you are eligible to vote under amendment four by confirming with Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court and the Department of Corrections.