Amendment 4 appears to be increasing the number of Florida voters. In the three months after the constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to felons went into effect, voter rolls across the state grew at twice the rate they did four years ago, according to reports filed by county elections supervisors.
The Division of Election website shows the state recorded a net increase of 16,354 voters, after 150,015 inactive voters were removed from the list between January and March 31. At this point in the election cycle four years ago, election supervisors reported a net increase of 7,030 voters after 63,985 names had been scrubbed from registration lists.
"I think it’s because of Amendment 4," said Mark Earley, Leon County Supervisor of Elections. "People are just starting to hear about a presidential election coming up. We'll see a much bigger jump this time next year as the presidential preference approaches in March."
New registered voters who checked the no political party box outpaced those who picked either Republican or Democratic. More than 13,424 people declared themselves to be a no party affiliated voter when they registered between January and March 31.
While the faction of voters unaffiliated with any party continues to grow, the Democrats' slice of the voter registration pie continues to get smaller. In the first three months of the year, the GOP added 3,850 voters and the Democrats saw their numbers drop by 9,672.
Overall, there are 13,412,976 Florida voters. The Democrats lead in voters with 37% of the total, while Republicans have a 35% share. NPAs are at 26%.
Compared to four years ago, the NPAs have added two percentage points to their total while Republicans have held steady and the Democrats have dropped a point.
Amendment 4 was the biggest expansion of voting rights right since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Except in cases of murder and felony sex offenses it restored a felon's right to vote upon completion of sentence.
The Florida House and Senate considered bills this week that the sponsors say provide "guidance" to election supervisors on how to interpret the amendment's language.
The House has the more restrictive measure. The bill the full chamber considered late Tuesday requires full payment of any financial obligation imposed by the court.
Opponents argue placing a financial requirement on voting is a poll tax.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R- St. Petersburg, filed a strike-all amendment before Tuesday's Rules Committee meeting to move the Senate version closer to the House. Brandes would require felons to pay all restitution ordered by the court to regain the right to vote but fees and fines converted to a civil lien would not bar eligibility.
While is unclear how many felons regains the right to vote, estimates in various reports cited by a House analysis run as high as 1.4 million.