For Devin Coleman, Amendment 4 was a political goal -- and a personal one.
A 2001 felony conviction when he was 21 years old derailed many things – job prospects, housing opportunities – as well as his right to vote.
For the past two years, he’s worked with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to pass Amendment 4, restoring rights to felons who've completed their sentences (murderers and sex offenders excepted).
Seeing Amendment 4 pass Nov. 6 with a 64 percent supermajority was affirming, he says. But the weeks since then have raised fears that the state might be slow to enact the new law. It's a concern that particularly impacts Duval County, which holds municipal elections in March.
At the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections conference last weekend, state officials told county elections supervisors they don’t yet have a plan to implement Amendment 4. That worried the 67 county officials facing a Jan. 8 deadline to open registration to ex-felons.
County officials asked for a written directive from the state, expressing fear that Florida counties would develop 67 different approaches.
Currently, the state sends local elections supervisors lists of ineligible voters. The counties want the state to do the same with newly eligible voters
State Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews was noncommittal, however, only promising to provide guidance by the end of the month.
Duval County Elections Supervisor Mike Hogan, who was at the weekend conference, told First Coast News the election recount likely delayed the state’s ability to plan for the new law. Despite that, he said, “I am confident Amendment 4 will be implemented in time for the March election.” That election has a registration deadline of Feb. 19.
Coleman admits he was unhappy when he heard the law was causing “confusion” among elections officials. He notes there was no such confusion when Gov. Rick Scott restricted state clemency policy, disenfranchising thousands.
“The amendment was straightforward,” he says of ballot language. “I don’t understand how that can be confusing.”
But Coleman says he’s not going to let worries displace the gratitude he feels for Florida voters.
“I want to tell the citizens of Florida thank you. Thank you for listening, thank you for understanding, thank you for believing in second chances.”