TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) - After feeling they were close to a long-sought victory, supporters of voting rights for ex-felons in Florida felt a stinging defeat this week.
An Atlanta-based court handed Governor Rick Scott and the other members of the Board of Executive Clemency a decisive victory mid-week by blocking a federal judge's order that would have required the state to overhaul Florida's process of restoring the right to vote to felons.
Less than 24 hours later, ministers and civil rights leaders rallied at the state capitol in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights for most Florida felons.
According to Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the best chance for change to happen will be through the ballot box.
"More than anything, y'all, on November 6 we have got to show up to pass Amendment 4 and make sure that we automatically restore rights to that class of former felons who are only seeking the dignity around the right to vote," said Gillum.
Mark Schlakman with Florida State University's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights feels most people were unaware of the current clemency process.
He says the recent publicity given to the felons voting rights issue will only help the chances of the amendment's passage.
"There are a substantial number of people who have completed their sentences, and have no voice in their governance," said Schlakman. "I think that is becoming more clear to the public at large."
To pass, Amendment Four needs more than 60 percent of voter approval in November.
There are an estimated 600,000 convicted felons in the state who could have their voting rights restored if the measure is approved.