In Florida, some people who have been convicted of a felony can still vote if they meet certain conditions.
But if they haven’t registered to vote yet and want to cast a ballot in the 2020 general election, they need to get registered quickly. The deadline is Oct. 5.
Floridians can register online at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov, by mail or in person at a supervisor of elections or tax collector’s office.
To be eligible to vote, a person must be at least 18 years old, a Florida resident and a citizen of the United States. A person cannot have been adjudicated mentally incapacitated with respect to voting.
If a person has a felony on their record but their voting rights have been restored by the Office of Executive Clemency and they meet the other eligibility requirements, they can register to vote.
But for most felons, the path to registering to vote is through Amendment 4, a change to the Florida Constitution passed in 2018.
Under this law, many felons can register to vote once they have completed all terms of their sentence. That means they have to:
- be released from prison;
- finish any probation, parole or community control ordered for that conviction;
- and fully pay off any court fines, fees or restitution owed for that conviction.
Groups have sued over the last requirement, but for now, it still stands.
Amendment 4 does not apply to people convicted of murder or a felony sex offense. That includes first-degree and second-degree murder and any felony that would force someone to become a registered sex offender. Here is a full list of crimes that make someone ineligible for automatic rights restoration through the amendment.
It can be hard to know exactly how much money is still owed. Records aren’t always online.
One website, Free Our Vote, has compiled a lot of the records for felonies committed since the year 2000. It doesn’t include every county, but many people can check there to see if they still have financial obligations.
Officials recommend calling the clerk of court in the county where the person was sentenced. FLClerks.com has the phone number for every county.
Judges can, in some cases, waive fees.
Note that only the amount of money listed when someone is sentenced applies. Any extra costs that come after the fact, like interest or late fees, do not need to be paid before registering to vote. This is called the “first dollar policy."
Outside groups like the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition can also help.
People who were convicted of felonies in other states — but not Florida — can register to vote in Florida if they would be eligible in the state where they were convicted. Check to see if the law in that state would allow it. However, murder and sex offenses are still excluded.
For more information on registering and voting in Florida, click here.
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