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Op-Ed - Vote Yes on Amendment 4

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Posted: Friday, October 19, 2018 2:11 pm | Updated: 4:26 pm, Fri Oct 19, 2018.

Under Florida law, 1.4 million Floridians are excluded from voting because of a past felony conviction, even after they have paid their debt to society.

In my district, these men and women are parents, pastors, small business owners and veterans who contribute to the everyday fabric of this community.

However, because of mistakes they made years ago, mistakes they’ve paid the price for, they are permanently barred from voting.

I am supporting Amendment 4 in November because Floridians who have made mistakes and paid for them in full, as ordered by a judge, have earned the opportunity to have a voice in the future of our state and country. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

Amendment 4 is based on a simple premise – when a debt is paid, it’s paid. Unfortunately, right now, even after a person has completed everything asked of them as ordered by a judge, current law does not recognize that simple premise and instead outlines an additional and difficult process for restoration of voting rights. The process for restoring eligibility to returning citizens is subject to the unpredictability of politics and elections, and the rules that govern which cases succeed and which fail are not only unclear and murky, they are inconsistent and imprecise. This system is painstaking and arbitrary. Amendment 4 would rescue the process from the whims of politicians in power and leave it to a judge, whose rules are clear and laws precise, to determine once a debt has been paid in full.

Amendment 4 is not just the right thing to do, it’s smart policy. According to the Florida Parole Commission, returning citizens who vote are three times less likely to recommit crimes. If people are far less likely to reoffend, then they are far less likely to re-enter the justice system and Florida

taxpayers will pay less for prison and court costs. By helping people become responsible citizens and reintegrating them into the fabric of Florida’s civic and economic life, we increase their potential for employment, earning power, and disposable income to give back to Florida’s economy. In fact, a recent study found that the passage of Amendment 4 would result in positive economic impacts to Florida taxpayers by adding $365 million to our state’s economy annually. This is a win-win for Florida and for all who believe in the power of second chances.

Voting for Amend-ment 4 is the right thing to do., It would benefit our economy and its passage would strengthen our state’s democracy. This November, support second chances and Vote YES on Amendment 4.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) represents FL-26 district.

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