Floridians With Felony Convictions Must Pay Fines Before They Can Vote

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Legislature appears to be succeeding in its drive to prevent people with felony convictions from voting. The people of Florida voted otherwise. Two years ago by an overwhelming margin, Floridians overturned the state's lifelong ban on voting for most people who were convicted of felonies and ER done serving time. Then Florida lawmakers stepped in. The legislators barred people with felony convictions from voting if they still owe outstanding fines. Danny Rivero of W. LRN reports on the result. The big promise when voters passed a ballot initiative in 2018 was that more than a million Floridians would get the right to vote back, but after the state connected voting with making payments Less than 10,000 ex felons are expected to vote in November, according to research from Georgetown Law Center. That's because the majority of people can't afford to pay what they owe. Even if a tiny percent of them can have paid all my thighs. I have paid my debt to society. And now maybe Sean Jones came out of Florida State prison six years ago when she was serving time for drug charges. When I met her in August, she was marching to the polls in Miami to vote in Florida's primary election. Today. Jones is a social worker now. And for the occasion, she's wearing a homemade black and pink shirt that celebrates how far she's made it. So my short says she's then reform have DC number, which is day County corrections, and I have my voter's registration number checked, so No longer a felon and my eyes. I'm not a few Florida counties have come up with programs that allow judges to modify someone sentenced to allow them to vote even if money is still open. In the program's first launched there was a lot of promise that they could help people register to vote. Democratic State Senator Jason Pizzo helped create one of these programs in Miami Dade County a year ago. He says. The biggest problem with the program is that so few people have used it less than 100. People of their cases have been modified in the largest county in Florida and the third largest, Pizzo says there's more pro bono attorneys that have offered to help with cases than people who have called for help. Is it apathy or is it beating down people and Basically digging and feel so disheartened and disenchanted with a system that I give up. You know, I just give up. I won't engage. I don't know. A fund to help would be voters was created last year and has raised million so far. But even those charitable contributions are facing pushback from the state. After billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced he would help donate nearly $20 million for the effort. Florida's attorney General Ashley Booty, asked the FBI and state police to investigate in the letter, She cited laws against election bribery. It's hard not seeing this as a bit of voter intimidation. Daniel Length, is an attorney with the campaign legal center. She represented plaintiffs in the federal court case. And she says Florida is trying to scare people away from accepting help for paying off their fines and fees. There is no criminal investigation to be had here. The law is about paying people to vote or paying people in order to induce them to vote. Instead, the generosity of fellow citizens is allowing individuals to become eligible to vote. Most of us don't have to pay to become eligible to vote. But unfortunately, these folks dio Betty Riddle was a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, and now she's scrambling to come up with the money. She needs to be able to vote in November. It doesn't make that frustrates free meat is unbelievable What these people will go through to stop from bone. I mean, you you want we got okay, Riddle says Despite all the legal rulings, she's going to keep trying to get her voting rights back even if it takes until the next presidential election. For NPR news. I'm Danny Rivero in Miami.

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