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College hosts panel on felon voting rights

Discussion on Amendment 4 featured previous imprisoned people

Amendment 4, which will be featured on the upcoming primary election ballot in Florida, is a proposed state constitutional changes that would, if passed, restore voting rights to non-violent felons who have completed their sentences and probation.

A panel was recently held at Rollins featuring previously imprisoned people to discuss and support the amendment. 

“This is a civil rights issue of utmost importance,” said Dr. Matthew Nichter, coordinator of Rollins’ Africa & African-American Studies program (AAAS) and an assistant professor of sociology.

The “Let My People Vote” panel was held on Monday, Oct. 8, and was sponsored by the AAAS program. It was moderated by Erin Sledge (‘20) and featured three panelists including Dr. Brandon Jett, visiting assistant professor of history; Neil Volz, political director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition; and LaShanna Tyson, founder of the local non-profit, Empowering Kids with Incarcerated Parent, and a student at UCF.

Amendment 4, in particular, only restores rights to non-violent felons, who did not commit murder or sex offenses.

Both Volz and Tyson are returned citizens and convicted felons. A returned citizen is someone who has served their time in federal prison, due to a conviction, and has now returned to their life out of prison. 

Volz and Tyson  relayed their experiences from before, during, and after serving their time in federal prison. Each of the panelists strongly advocated for the passage of Amendment 4 and urged the audience to get out and vote on Nov. 6.  

Jett, who specializes in criminal justice, emphasized the importance of “welcoming [felons] back into society” and “making a positive change” for the lives of returned citizens. 

Amendment 4 would only restore voting rights to non-violent felons who did not commit murder or sex offenses and who have fully completed their sentences and probation. If this amendment is passed, almost 1.8 million people may be allowed to vote, explained Volz. 

The panel specifically highlighted how Florida is one of only four states that currently bar people’s right to vote. Jett highlighted that “over 800,000 people signed a referendum saying that they would want it on the [Florida] ballot.” 

Amendment 4 truly is a voter’s amendment, and it is one of the most debated items on the state’s ticket this year.

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