Felon voting rights could be restored, unless Governor-Elect DeSantis puts a hold on Amendment 4

As voter registration opens up across the state, the recently passed Amendment 4 will mean convicted felons will have their voting rights restored.

Starting Tuesday at 8 a.m., convicted felons in Florida who served their sentence can walk into the Supervisor of Elections Office in the state to register to vote.

Less than 24 hours to go until that moment, members of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and other partners gathered in front of the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office.

One by one, former felons excited about becoming full citizens again, shared their story.

“I crossed some lines I shouldn’t have crossed,” Neil Volz said.

They all focused on the future.

“It’s an opportunity for returning citizens like myself to be able to re-invent ourselves,” Rashmi Airan said.

However, for others, it’s a right they’ve never known.

“I got caught up in the juvenile justice system at the age of 12,” Dave Ayala said. “Got my first felony conviction at the age of 16. Lost my right to vote before I was even eligible.”

Ayala spent a total of 21 years in and out of the system. “Got released from federal prison at 33,” he said. He went on to build a new life for himself, got married and is raising two kids.

His wife, Aramis Ayala, is currently the state attorney for the ninth judicial circuit court. When she was elected two years ago, her husband could not cast a ballot.

“I’ll be coming down here to the Supervisor of Elections Office tomorrow morning with my wife,” he said. “A person that has been there for me since day one. A person that made history here in the state of Florida and I wasn’t able to vote for her.”

Amendment 4 passed with 65 percent of the vote in November’s midterm election. That means about 1.4 million former felons, excluding murderers and sex offenders, will have their voting rights restored.

“Tomorrow I will get my voice back,” Ayala said.

That is unless Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis puts a hold on the law. He wants lawmakers to officially sign off on it.

Even though Amendment 4 passed, there are still limitations. Felons with newly established voter registrations will not be able to regain their right to serve on a jury.