On Tuesday, nearly 1.5 million felons will regain the right to vote in Florida.
Back in November, voters approved state Constitutional Amendment 4, meaning convicted felons will have their voting rights restored following the completion of their sentences. The amendment excludes those convicted of murder and sexual offenses.
Before the amendment passed, felons had to wait at least five years after completing their sentences, then ask the state's Clemency Board to restore their rights. Florida's felon voting law and clemency process were often criticized. Last Week Tonight host John Oliver called the state "the disenfranchisement capital of America" and called the clemency process "insane."
Florida's disenfranchisement of felons also has a racist history that dates back to right after the Civil War. The Union was forcing states to allow all men to vote, including newly-freed slaves, so lawmakers expanded the enforcement of crimes they believed black men were more likely to commit.
There are several events planned Tuesday to mark the implementation of Amendment 4 around Tampa Bay.
Congressman Charlie Crist will be at St. Petersburg City Hall along with community leaders and felons who will register to vote. The registration event begins at 7:50 a.m. Tuesday at 175 5th St. N.
The St. Petersburg Democratic Club hosts a community panel Tuesday morning with officials from the state legislature, lawyers involved with the amendment and felons. It begins at noon at the Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S.
There will also be a short news conference outside the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections on Tuesday with Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner discussing how his office will handle implementation of the amendment. It begins at 8:30 a.m., 101 S Washington Blvd., Sarasota.