Polls show sup­port for Florida bal­lot mea­sure to au­to­mat­i­cally re­store vot­ing rights to felons

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - LOCAL - By An­thony Man South Florida Sun Sentinel

Pub­lic opin­ion polls in the run-up to Elec­tion Day show the pro­posal to au­to­mat­i­cally re­store vot­ing rights for felons who have com­pleted their sen­tences has strong sup­port from Florida vot­ers.

The av­er­age of three polls in re­cent days shows 66 per­cent sup­port the amend­ment, 25 per­cent op­pose it and 8 per­cent are un­de­cided.

Pas­sage re­quires ap­proval of 60 per­cent of those vot­ing on the amend­ment.

How­ever, pas­sage isn’t cer­tain.

One big un­known is how many peo­ple ac­tu­ally will vote on the is­sue. It’s in the midst of many other con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments, after vot­ers make choices in mar­quee races for gover­nor and U.S. Se­nate, and in a slew of con­gres­sional, state leg­isla­tive and lo­cal govern­ment con­tests.

Tra­di­tion­ally there is a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in the num­ber of votes cast the far­ther down the bal­lot a con­test or is­sue is placed. Voter drop-off could de­ter­mine if it passes or fails.

The is­sue

Pro­posed Amend­ment 4 to the Florida Con­sti­tu­tion on the midterm elec­tion bal­lot would re­store the right to vote for felons, ex­cept mur­der­ers and sex of­fend­ers, who have com­pleted their sen­tences.

Florida is one of four states that ban felons who have served their time from vot­ing. To get back the right to vote, ex-felons must go through a clemency process.

The clemency process has gy­rated dra­mat­i­cally in re­cent years. Dur­ing f o r m e r G o v. C h a r l i e Crist’s four years in of­fice from 2007 to 2011, more than 150,000 ex-felons had their right to vote re­stored through an ex­pe­dited process, the League of Women Vot­ers of Florida re­ports.

Since Gov. Rick Scott took of­fice in 2011, al­most eight years ago, about 3,0 0 0 h av e h a d t h e i r rights re­stored. A fed­eral judge has ruled that the cur­rent sys­tem is un­con­sti­tu­tional; a fed­eral ap­peals court is con­sid­er­ing the is­sue.

Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­nee An­drew Gil­lum sup­ports the pro­posed con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment. Other sup­port­ers ar­gue that the cur­rent sys­tem un­fairly dise n f ra n c h i s e s mi n o r i t y res­i­dents who are more likely to be con­victed of crimes such as drug of­fenses than white Florid­i­ans.

Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­nee Ron DeSan­tis op­poses it.

He and groups that opp o s e t h e a me n d me n t , such as the Don­ald Trump Club i n Pa l m B e a c h County, ar­gue that the restora­tion shouldn’t be au­to­matic and should con­sider each case in­di­vid­u­ally.

The polls

Three polls have re­ported sur­vey re­sults on the amend­ment in re­cent days:

Suf­folk Univer­sity/USA To­day Net­work found 70 per­cent of likely vot­ers sup­port­ing the amend­ment, 21 per­cent op­posed and 8 per­cent un­de­cided.

The poll sur­veyed 500 likely vot­ers from Oct. 25 to 28.

Univer­sity of North Florida Pub­lic Opin­ion Re­search Lab showed 69 per­cent sup­port, 23 per- cent op­pose, 8 per­cent don’t know.

The poll of 1,046 likely vot­ers was con­ducted from Oct. 23 to 26.

New York Times Up­shot/ Siena Col­lege re­ported 60 per­cent sup­port, 31 per­cent were op­posed and 9 per­cent didn’t know.

The sur­vey of 737 vot­ers con­ducted from Oct. 23 to 27.

Data break­down

The Univer­sity of North Florida poll re­ported a slight dip in sup­port for Amend­ment 4 since its Septem­ber poll, which found 71 per­cent sup­port­ing and 21 op­pos­ing the amend­ment.

“It still re­mains well above the 60 per­cent mark re­quired for pas­sage. Repub­li­can sup­port has fallen by 9 per­cent, most likely due to some prom­i­nent Repub­li­can c a n d i d a t e s ex p re s s i n g hes­i­ta­tion about the a m e n d m e n t ,” said Michael Binder, fac­ulty di­rec­tor of the Pub­lic Opin­ion Re­search Lab at UNF.

Dif­fer­ent vot­ing blocs view the is­sue dif­fer­ently: Ye s, 8 4 per­cent; no, 10 per­cent; don’t know, 6 per­cent.

Yes, 53 per­cent; no, 37 per­cent; don’t know, 10 per­cent.

Yes, 71 per­cent; no, 22 per­cent; don’t know, 7 per­cent.

Yes, 66 per­cent; n o, 2 6 p e r c e n t ; d o n ’ t know, 8 per­cent.

Yes, 93 per­cent; no, 6 per­cent; don’t know, 1 per­cent.

Yes, 61 per­cent; no, 27 per­cent; don’t know, 13 per­cent.

aman@sun­sen­tinel.com, 954-356-4550 or Twit­ter @broward­pol­i­tics

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