Felon Voting Referendum Unlikely to Make Ballot

A civil liberties group says a referendum to automatically restore felons' voter rights after they leave prison will likely fall short of the number of signatures needed to make the November ballot.

The American Civil Liberties Union's (search) chief lobbyist says the measure is more likely to be on the 2006 ballot. If passed, the amendment would provide for automatic restoration of civil and voting rights for felons once they have completed serving their sentences.

Florida is among a half dozen of states nationally that do not automatically restore the voting rights (search) of felons who have left prison. Under Florida law, former felons lose their right to vote unless they request to have it reinstated by the governor and clemency (search) board.

The purge of some supposed felons from Florida voter rolls before the 2000 presidential election sparked a lawsuit filed by several groups on behalf of black voters. The federal class-action lawsuit charged that minority voters were widely denied voting rights in seven counties. The state settled that lawsuit in July and agreed to help restore voting rights to nearly 125,000 people.