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Koch-funded Freedom Partners supports voting rights for felons

A national group with close ties to the Koch Brothers, Freedom Partners, has thrown its support behind Amendment 4 on the Florida ballot -- the proposal to restore voting rights to most convicted felons without hearings or delays.

Formally known as the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia-based group describes its mission as "more freedom, more opportunity."

"We believe that when individuals have served their sentences and paid their debts to society as ordered by a judge, they should be eligible to vote," Freedom Partners said in a statement. "In the Sunshine State, Floridians are permanently excluded from voting because of a prior felony conviction -- one of only four states with a lifetime ban. If we want people returning to society to be productive, law-abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens.

"We support the Florida Second Chances campaign, which would return the eligibility to vote to Floridians who have done their time and paid their debts in full. This will make our society safer, our system more just, and provide for real second chances for returning citizens," the group said.

Freedom Partners supports Republican Ron DeSantis in the election for Florida governor. DeSantis said in June he didn't have a position on the voting rights amendment.

DeSantis' Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, supports Amendment 4.

Freedom Partners has been described by Politico as "the secret bank" for the Koch Brothers' extensive political activity in state capitals across the U.S. It formed a super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund, for the 2014 election cycle.

The chairman of Freedom Partners' board, Koch Industries senior vice president Mark Holden, did not respond to an email question about how much financial support Freedom Partners would give the Second Chances campaign.

The campaign's political arm, Floridians for a Fair Democracy, reports having raised $14.3 million so far.

Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida chapter of the ACLU, one of the campaign's biggest supporters, hailed the endorsement.

"The Amendment 4 campaign is a genuinely bipartisan, across the ideological and political spectrum effort," Simon said, "united around the moral principle that those who served their time and paid their debt to society have earned their way back into the community, including their eligibility to vote."

Amendment 4 requires approval by 60 percent of voters in November. If it passes, an estimated 1.4 million disenfranchised Floridians will be able to register to vote.

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