Felons voting clarification comes too late for primary

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 5:45 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Florida Secretary of State quietly published guidance for people with felon convictions to determine whether they are eligible to register to vote.

There was no press release.

The Felon Voting Rights guidance just appeared on the Division of Elections website.

It even caught Desmond Meade, who led the charge for the 2018 felons voting rights amendment, by surprise.

“They didn’t give notice to any of the organizations that they know are working to help returning citizens participate in our democracy,” said Meade, who serves as Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

The new guidance clarifies as long as a felon has paid the total of what the originally owed they can register.

Additional fees or interest added to their original debt can’t count against them.

Felons can also ask the Secretary of State to determine if they’re eligible, but Meade said even with the new guidance that the process hasn’t been fleshed out.

“They’re not telling a person exactly what to do and in addition, they’re not even giving the timeline for a person to get a response,” said Meade.

Meade called the guidance too little too late.

“We have hundreds of thousands of returning citizens in the State of Florida who wish they could have been participating in the primary elections that’s going on right now in their community,” said Meade.

In a press conference Thursday, the governor blamed the delay on pending litigation against the 2019 law that requires felons to pay all fines, fees and restitution before the can register to vote.

The governor said more will be known once the case is settled.

“And I’m sure they’re going to provide appropriate guidance at that time,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

The lawsuit against requiring the fines and fees will be heard in a federal appeals court next week.

A federal judge in a lower court previously ruled the law amounted to a poll tax.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is still working to help felons pay back their debts.

They’ve spent $2 million so far to help 2,000 felons.

Another $2 million is expected to go out the door by the end of the week.

You can also contribute to the fund by clicking here.

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