The Run-Down on Florida Felon Voting Limits

Each state in this country plays an important role in determining the outcome of a national election, but it’s especially important in Florida, which is a historically significant swing-state where results of past elections have been determined. That’s why the government seems to be suppressing the votes of marginalized populations.

The population in question? Felons.

This battle is heating up as the election inches closer and closer. 

Last year, the GOP signed a law saying that former felons have to pay fees correlated to their sentences before they could vote. They will either have to go to court to dismiss these fees and/or do community service instead. 

This is voter suppression. 

Not only is this suppressing the vote of a population that deserves the human right to vote, but in a state like Florida, it can really affect the result of elections, especially the Presidential Election coming up in November. 

This all first began back during the 2018 midterm elections, when Florida voters approved Amendment Four. This restored voting rights for more than a million felons who had already completed their sentences. More specifically, the amendment permanently bars convicted murderers and rapists from voting but other felons in Florida who have already completed their sentences and would not have to pay fines otherwise were given the right to vote.  However, this was reversed in 2019, when the state passed a law that required felons who had completed their sentences to pay fines or any costs associated with their convictions before they were allowed to vote. 

Research from Georgetown University Law Center shows that of the 14,000 former felons registered to vote in 2018, 69% of them still owed money. 

And they shouldn’t have to pay in the first place. Adding these requirements to pay legal and financial obligations are an indirect form of voter suppression. 

In terms of the election next November, this could be a huge impact. As usual, Florida is predicted to have a minimal margin between Biden and Trump, with Trump being predicted to win. Most former felons were to vote for Biden, and Democrats were foreseeing attaining support from thousands of former felons in Florida. 

Most importantly, these former felons under the amendment are human beings who have the right to vote at the end of the day. They live amongst us and deserve the same rights that we do. 

U.S Rep. Val Demings feels the same way. She believes that a person’s criminal sentence does not expunge them from our communities, and they are warranted to have a say in the decisions made in this country and within the communities in which they live. 

As of right now, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to be taking care of it. He and his team have raised more than $16 million to help those affected by Amendment Four with voting. Additionally, many voting rights groups are also putting in loads of effort to restore voting rights for former felons in Florida. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition says that, with Bloomberg's help, they have enough money to help about 20,000 people pay their fees and fines.

It’s upsetting that former felons in Florida have to go through so much hassle to vote. They deserve to be able to vote automatically, with no obstacles or hurdles. If you want to help former felons vote, or if you know one who needs to pay their court fees, visit https://floridarrc.com/