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Major Criminal Justice Measures Pass During The 2018 Midterms

Florida voters passed Amendment 4, giving some 1.5 million former felons in Florida the right to vote.
Posted at 6:31 PM, Nov 07, 2018

The candidates who won and lost across the country are stealing most of the headlines the day after midterms, but along with the House, Senate and governor's races, there were also major criminal justice reform measures passed overnight that will affect millions of Americans in the coming years.

First, the big one: Florida voters passed Amendment 4, giving some 1.5 million former felons in Florida the right to vote. The state amendment allows formerly incarcerated people who have completed their prison sentence, parole and probationary periods to vote in state and federal elections. It does exclude those convicted of murder or felony sex offenses.

Like many criminal justice reforms, this measure significantly impacts Florida's black population. Before this amendment was passed, more than 20 percent of otherwise eligible black voters had to stay home on Election Day. 

Now that Florida has restored voting rights to this group, only three states, Kentucky, Virginia and Iowa still bar former felons from voting after they've completed their sentence. Virginia's governor, however, has restored the rights of more than 150,000 former felons during his time in office — a state record. 

In Louisiana, voters passed Amendment 2, which eliminated a Jim Crow-era law that allowed non-unanimous juries in felony trials. Louisiana was one of two states where you only needed 10 out of 12 jurors to convict someone of a felony. 

This law was passed in response to the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which forced the state to include black Americans in the jury pool. By passing this law, it lessened the impact black Americans could have on a jury. 

Lastly, the rights of crime victims also had a big night on Tuesday. Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Florida all expanded the rights of crime victims by passing a version of what's called Marsy's Law. 

Marsy's Law is essentially a crime victim Bill of Rights. The specifics vary from state to state, but it allows things like crime victims to be present and heard at criminal trials, be formally notified when the trial is and refuse an interview or deposition.

The ACLU and other advocacy groups have come out against some Marsy's Law provisions because they believe it undermines due process.