Florida ballot initiative giving former felons the right to vote passes

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Voters in Florida on Election Day approved a measure that restores the voting rights to roughly 1 million felons. Marissa Alexander, who was convicted of aggravated assault in 2012 for firing a warning shot at her husband, who she said abused her, has advocated for the the amendment to restore former felons' right to vote.

With passage of the amendment, Florida joins the ranks of dozens of American cities and states that have been relaxing restrictions on voting for former prisoners in recent years. Other states, like Florida before Tuesday, banned them from ever voting once they had a felony conviction, even years after their full sentence had been completed. Florida did have a system established by Governor Rick Scott to restore voting rights to released felons, but the process often took years of work before someone could get a hearing for their civil rights to be restored, which was not guaranteed.

Florida was among a minority of states that required additional waiting time or extra steps for felons to regain their voting rights.

Opponents argued that the measure treats all felons alike and takes away the ability to judge each individually.

While liberal-leaning groups succeeded in getting some of their favored policy proposals on the ballot in Republican-controlled states, the partisan pattern was reversed in a few states.

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In the first statewide referendum on transgender rights, MA voters on Tuesday beat back a repeal attempt and reaffirmed a 2016 law extending nondiscrimination protections to transgender people, including their use of public bathrooms and locker rooms. Florida's harsh, lifetime ban on voting rights, which racist lawmakers approved during the Jim Crow era, meant that more than one in five black adults had been permanently blocked from casting a ballot.

That's a quarter of the total number of people nationwide who are forbidden to vote because of a felony conviction. OR adopted its "sanctuary state" law in 1987, becoming the first state to do so.

Washington voters also had a chance to toughen background checks for people buying semi-automatic rifles and to make their state the first to charge a direct fee on carbon pollution to fight climate change.

By Tuesday evening, more than 60 percent of Floridians casting ballots had voted yes, capping one of 2016's most inspired and politically important campaigns, an effort that sparked a grassroots army that will undoubtedly continue to participate in politics.

For many voters, the ballot item was a no-brainer. One of those would cap profits for dialysis clinics; the other would allow local governments to expand rent control.

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