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Ex-Felons, Greyhounds, and Government Accountability Benefit from Election Day

Michael Fleshman/Flickr

Florida voters approved 11 out of 12 amendments on Election Day, including 4, 13 and 12. These amendments address the right to vote, animals’ rights and provide new limits on lobbying government. All constitutional amendments on the Florida ballot needed at least 60 percent to pass.

Amendment 4: Voting Rights for Ex-Felons

Florida used to be one of 10 states that didn’t allow ex-felons who completed their sentence to vote. With the approval of Amendment 4, Florida’s Constitution will give that right to vote back to ex-felons upon completion of their sentence including parole and probation. This doesn’t apply to all felony convictions. Those convicted of a murder or a sexual felony charge will not receive the right to vote back immediately. They’ll have to go to the governor and ask for voting rights, as all ex-felons had to do in the past.

Amendment 4 made it to the ballot via a citizen’s initiative and received 800,000 signatures from registered voters.

Melissa Davis is an Escambia County resident and explains why she voted for Amendment 4.

“I understand not giving them back to the sexual predators and murderers and things like that.” Davis said. “But I feel like for people who may have just had small felonies, they should still have the right to vote as well as having some say so in their community.”

Amendment 13: Ban Greyhound Racing

Forty states across the country ban gambling on dog racing, and this amendment decided Florida will now become one of them. Supporters of the ban say greyhound racing dogs are mistreated and often euthanized when they can’t race any longer. Pensacola has one of the 12 greyhound tracks in Florida and has been in operation since 1947.

In a previous interview with WUWF, CRC Member and former senate president Tom Lee explains why this amendment is important.

“Since the state began tracking greyhound deaths in 2013, 438 dogs have died at racetracks in our state.”

Credit Rainer Hungershausen /https://www.flickr.com/photos/mamboman/3203845043
Amendment 13 will go into effect January 2021 and outlaw all wagering on dog racing in Florida.

This amendment is a CRC initiative. It faced trouble in the Leon County District Court where the amendment’s language was declared to be “misleading” for voters. The Florida Supreme Court rejected that claim and let it stay on the ballot for voters to decide.

Jonny Mae-Dixon said she thought the poor treatment of the greyhounds was plenty of reason to vote yes on Amendment 13.

“Oh I feel bad for the dogs,” Dixon says. “I feel bad because they’re being abused. You have to put yourself in their place. I don’t feel like they need to force dogs to race [because] then after they race they’re hurt and then they have to kill them. I don’t believe in that.”

Amendment 13 will go into effect January 2021 and prohibit all waging and gambling on dogs racing in Florida.

Amendment 12: New Rules on Lobbying and Abuse of Government Office

Changes to government ethics rules are now on the way. Amendment 12 was the most popular of the 11 amendments that passed with 78.9 percent of the vote. Amendment 12 was approved for the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission. Former State Senate President Don Gaetz ushered this amendment through the committee.

One of the provisions increases the number of years that government officials have to wait before they can lobby. While the ethics laws used to require a 2-year waiting period, former public officials will have to wait 6 years before lobbying.

Amendment 1 was the only amendment that did not pass.

For more information on the rest of the amendments see “Florida Voters Approve Majority of Constitutional Amendments” for a quick guide on what the passage of each initiative means for Floridians.