Felons registering to vote, thanks to Amendment 4

Widmark Germain is a truck driver based in West Palm Beach.
Photo Submitted by Widmark Germain.

Widmark Germain was able to register to vote earlier this month, thanks to Amendment 4.

A West Palm Beach resident, Germain, 38, spent five years in prison for a felony drug conviction. He was released in 2012, and works as a truck driver.

Germain said he’s glad to be able to vote again, but he doesn’t believe Amendment 4 will change a prison system badly in need of reform.

He said that he was never bothered by not having the right to vote. He would rather vote at a local level because those actually matter and are important.

When Amendment 4 was passed in 2018 Germain liked the idea of it, but he doesn’t feel like the amendment was passed for the right reasons.

He said a lot of felons will be able to vote, but regardless of them getting the right there will be loopholes.

“The government has a hidden agenda, and Amendment 4 won’t change anything. Politicians will benefit from the passing of this amendment except the people of color,” Germain said. “People that are still on probation will not be able to vote.”

Amendment 4, overwhelmingly approved by Florida voters in November, allows convicted felons to vote. The amendment was passed to automatically restore the voting rights for people with prior felony convictions. This right excludes people with murder charges or sexual offenses.

Going into the election Florida was one of only four states that did not grant convicted felons the right to vote. The felon voting law was a part of the original constitution of 1968. On Feb. 1, 2018 U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker ruled Florida’s process of restoration of voting rights unconstitutional saying it violated amendments 1 and 14. Based on the Sentencing Project’s 2016 estimates, Amendment 4 benefits more than one million people in Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott challenged Walker’s ruling, but that challenge became mute following the passage of Amendment 4.

Pilar Chase, 20, voted for the first time last year. The Florida A&M student said she voted yes on Amendment 4. She said everyone deserves the chance and the right to vote. Being able to let convicted felons vote is a better representation of the population, she said.