About 2 million felons may regain their voting rights before the upcoming elections in November, a change that could impact close races in states like Florida, Iowa, and North Carolina, Politico reports.
Last month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued an executive order restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their sentence. Until that order was issued, Iowa was the last state in the U.S. that banned felons from voting, even after they completed their sentence, without a special request to the governor’s office.
An amendment to Florida’s constitution last year allows felons to vote after they complete their sentence and pay off any remaining fines, while judges in North Carolina recently voided a state law that required felons to pay any outstanding fines or fees before voting. Nevada passed a bill last year restoring voting rights to felons upon their release from prison. Felon voters in each of these states could prove to be a significant influence in the presidential race, as well as state and local elections.
“The numbers of people that are eligible to cast their ballot are huge. We know that that will absolutely impact any election, from state to local to federal, if all of those people exercise their right to vote,” said Stephanie Young, Chief Officer of Culture, Communications and Media Partnerships at When We All Vote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that works to improve voter turnout.
“There’s enough people who are disenfranchised in Florida by a felony conviction that it expanded the electorate nationwide in a very significant way,” said Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, who noted that the state’s constitutional amendment marks the largest increase in democracy since the voting age was changed from 21 to 18.