For the first time, former felons can vote in Florida but there’s a catch

Reporter: Andrea Guerrero Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:

Voters approved a change back in the 2018 election stating that former felons can now vote for president or in any other election. So this, for many, is the first time they can vote! However, they have to pay off all fines and fees first.

One group is outlining how these former felons could make a huge difference in their communities if the debt requirement wasn’t an obstacle.

Neil Volz is just one of the more than 1.5 million Floridians who has had his voting rights restored than to the passage of Amendment 4 in 2018.

“I voted for the first time in 16 years last August and it was an overwhelming experience,” Volz said.

Lance Wissinger filled out his first ballot just a few weeks ago. “I just voted for the first time ever in my life back in August for the primary and was ecstatic,” Wissinger said. “I had no idea how much of a big deal that was going to be until I actually got to do it and I was visibly shaking.”

However, there were over 700,000 former felons who thought seeing their right to vote being restore would be a good thing. Until they all realized they had to pay off fines and fees after serving time.

“They went to bed a few months ago thinking they were going to be able to participate in this election and then found out a few weeks ago after a court decision in fact they were not going to be able to participate in democracy,” said Volz, who is the Deputy Director of Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

Neil Volz says he and others had their spirits crushed when they heard the news. “We have 88,000 people in the state and country donate into our fines and fees fund simply because they believe the barriers should be torn down so that people can participate in democracy,” he said.

Volz and others who work with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition have created the fund to break the barriers that debt brings. They also don’t want a past life of crime to affect people’s future in voting.

“We as returning citizens have taken on the obligation of showing the world that we can be assets, that our past mistakes does not define us. It just enhances our ability now to be even better service to the community,” said Desmond Meade, Executive Director of FRRC.

The deadline to pay these fines and fees is Monday, October 5.

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