Three States Pass Sweeping Voting Rights Expansions

Voter gets assistance from a poll worker as early morning voters casted their ballots at Legion Park in the Upper Eastside neighborhood in Miami Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/TNS)

November 8, 2018

By Jeff Cirillo

WASHINGTON — Voting rights activists are celebrating after voters in three states approved sweeping election reforms in this week’s midterm elections.

Voters in Florida, Michigan and Nevada all passed major reforms to their states’ election systems, which will make voting easier and extend ballot access to millions of new voters.

Florida’s Amendment 4, approved by 64 percent of voters, will restore voting rights to more than 1 million residents convicted of certain felonies. About 10 percent of Florida adults will be newly eligible to vote, of which a disproportionate number are African-Americans.

Meanwhile, Nevada and Michigan both passed automatic voter registration measures Tuesday, meaning residents in future elections will be added to voting rolls when they obtain or renew a driver’s license or conduct other business with the state, unless they opt out.

In Michigan, automatic voter registration passed as part of a broader package of reforms intended to make voting easier, including allowing residents to register on the day of an election, request absentee ballots without giving a reason and vote a straight-party ticket.

“Millions of Americans exercised their right to vote in this election. In key battleground states, that right was also expanded so that 2 million additional voters will be able to be cast their ballots in Florida, Michigan, and Nevada in 2020,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “These reforms enacted by these ballot referenda will have impacts for elections to come.”

The successful Florida referendum is a bright spot for Democrats after the narrow defeat of gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and apparent unseating of incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. The former spoke out in support of the measure during his campaign, while Republican Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis said it was “wrong to automatically restore rights to felons who’ve committed serious crimes.”

“Millions of people in the state of Florida have voted to end racism, end Jim Crow in Florida and re-enfranchise millions of people in the state,” ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said Tuesday night in a statement to supporters.

Nevada also passed another ballot initiative targeting partisan gerrymandering. The measure will take redistricting out of the hands of the state’s Legislature and instead task an independent commission with redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts.

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