December 4, 2019
It’s been a snowy fall up here in Vermont, so it didn’t take too much convincing for us to hit the road in Florida this month with our friends at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC). Of course, we were in it for more than the palm trees. Our goal was to build on the remarkable success of the Second Chances Campaign, which culminated in the passage of Amendment 4, making 1.4 million returning citizens eligible to vote.
From November 4 to November 24, we traveled from community to community all around the Sunshine State to scoop ice cream and bring attention to the FRRC’s efforts to provide information about overcoming barriers to voting and register all those returning citizens to vote! It was an amazing month. We visited 7 towns and cities, dished out 2,500 scoops of free ice cream, registered over 400 new voters, and informed nearly 1,000 people about the new voter registration landscape after the passage of Amendment 4.
While we were scooping, we were also listening—and some questions kept coming up in stop after stop. That’s why we worked with the FRRC to get answers:
1. I have a felony conviction. Can I register to vote in Florida?
Yes! Thanks to Amendment 4, returning citizens (individuals with felony convictions) in Florida can register to vote if they meet the following criteria:
- The sentence is complete, including parole, probation, and any restitution, fines, or fees that were assigned as part of the sentence
- The conviction was not for murder or a felony sexual offense
Ready to register? Awesome! Do it online right now, or text “REGISTER” to 82623 to fill out the voter registration application.
2. Didn’t Florida’s legislature “roll back” or “overturn” Amendment 4?
No. Amendment 4 is a part of the Florida constitution. The Florida legislature did pass a law that requires all fines and fees to be paid before returning citizens can vote, but Desmond Meade, FRRC’s executive director, made it clear that the “legislation only slows down the impact of Amendment 4 … it doesn’t stop it.”
The FRRC is going out into communities to register the estimated 840,000 returning citizens who are immediately eligible to vote, and help break down barriers for the other 500,000.
3. I have outstanding financial obligations (fines, fees, restitution, etc.) from my conviction. Are there any resources available to help me?
Yes! The FRRC has started a Fines & Fees Program to help returning citizens deal with their financial obligations.
Returning citizens can apply for assistance online, by texting "FINES" to 82623, or at any event sponsored or co-sponsored by the FRRC. Those with questions or uncertainty surrounding their situation should still apply, as the FRRC team addresses each applicant's submission as they are received.
4. I registered to vote a while ago, but haven’t received my voter information card in the mail yet. What’s going on?
The current process for verifying voting eligibility is taking a little while. Please allow up to 30 days for your card to arrive.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll need a photo ID (that includes your signature) to vote. Check this out if you want more information about Florida’s voter ID laws.
If you’re worried that your registration did not go through, please contact the supervisor of elections for your county. You can also look yourself up—just be sure to enter your full legal name on the Check Voter Status page. If you look yourself up and it says “Voter Status: Active,” congratulations! That means your registration went through and you’re an active voter. If you feel that your voter registration was improperly rejected or that you were incorrectly removed from the rolls, please contact the FRRC at 1-877-MY-VOTE-0.
5. I have a conviction and/or fines and fees that originate in another state, but I now live in Florida. Can I vote?
Situations involving multiple states depend on the rules and procedures in the other state, which can vary greatly from place to place. Call 1-877-MY-VOTE-0 if you have specific questions.
6. How do I get all of my rights (serving on a jury, running for public office, owning a firearm, etc.) restored?
Amendment 4 only applied to voting rights. It did not impact other rights, such as carrying a firearm, running for public office, or serving on juries. To have those rights restored, you will need to apply for clemency through the established clemency process.
If you need legal assistance with your clemency application, please call 1-877-MY-VOTE-0. The FRRC can connect you with an attorney who may be able to help.
If you didn’t see your specific question addressed here, or if the answers provided didn’t quite apply to your specific situation, then call 1-877-MY-VOTE-0 and the FRRC will help you out.
It was great seeing you again, Florida. Passing Amendment 4 was a great victory, but now it’s time to finish the job. Together we can make sure that all 1.4 million returning citizens who are now eligible to vote actually get registered!
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