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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Floridians approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday night that will automatically restore voting rights to 1.5 million ex-felons who have already completed their sentences, except for those convicted of murder or sex crimes.

Why it matters: This comes after numerous unsuccessful legislative attempts and a Supreme Court appeal that sought to overturn the Jim Crow-era law. The ballot measure, which has received bipartisan support, will enfranchise more people at once than any other other single initiative since the women’s suffrage movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Vox explains.

The backdrop: Felony disenfranchisement laws affect about six million people nationally, but the Sunshine State remains the most stringent, banning more people from voting than any other state.

  • Florida is one of four states — Iowa, Virginia and Kentucky — that constitutionally prohibit ex-felons from voting, unless the governor approves a clemency plea. Under Florida's current system, ex-felons have to wait up to seven years before they could petition the Clemency Board, led by Gov. Rick Scott (R) and three other Republican cabinet members.

Yes, but: There’s no principle for a successful petition. In a 2016 clemency hearing, Scott told a petitioner: "There’s no standard. We can do whatever we want," according to ABC News.

  • Scott, who has defended the now-former process and is against the ballot measure, said it would make it too easy for undeserving ex-convicts to regain their voting rights.

The big picture: The amendment will shift the makeup of the country’s largest battleground state, which plays a deciding role in presidential elections. Observers say Democrats will largely benefit because the prohibition disproportionately affects African-Americans, a group that overwhelmingly votes Democratic. According to the Sentencing Project, more than 1 in 5 black Floridians are affected.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden close to picking Nick Burns as China ambassador

Nicholas Burns. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is in the final stages of vetting to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to China, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Across the administration, there's a consensus the U.S. relationship with China will be the most critical — and consequential — of Biden's presidency. From trade to Taiwan, the stakes are high. Burns could be among the first batch of diplomatic nominees announced in the coming weeks.

Biden's Russian sanctions likely to achieve little

President Biden announces new sanctions against Russia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite bold talk from top administration officials, there's little reason to think the Russia sanctions package President Biden announced Thursday will do anything to alter Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior or calculus.

Why it matters: While it's true some elements of the package — namely, the targeting of Russia's sovereign debt — represent significant punitive measures against Moscow, it leaves plenty of wiggle room for the Russian president.