Florida just added 1.4 million potential voters to its rolls by passing Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to people with past felony convictions. While the state’s voters made it happen, they had a little encouragement from John Oliver, who dedicated a segment of Last Week Tonight to the issue back in September.
The idea of giving voting rights to violent felons like murderers and sex criminals isn’t particularly a savory idea, but Oliver notes that only 18% of felons fall into that category—and Florida’s amendment doesn’t apply to them anyway. For years, the vast majority of disenfranchised felons were non-violent offenders who served their sentences, but were still unable to vote. While many states make it difficult for felons to regain their voting rights, according to Oliver, the worst state of all “in this and arguably everything else is Florida.” Its stringent, complicated requirements led to a system that left one in five African-Americans disenfranchised, which is why Oliver called out the state so publicly.
The voters apparently listened, passing Amendment 4, and re-enfranchising some 1.4 million potential voters. According to nonprofit group, Public Citizen, this not only “repeal[s] one of the country’s worst Jim Crow laws, it’s also the largest expansion in voting rights since the Voting Rights Act.” Well done, Florida! And well done, John Oliver.
If you want to learn more about the issue, watch the Last Week Tonight segment on felony disenfranchisement.