TALLAHASSEE — More than 67,000 people with felony convictions have registered to vote since Florida ended its lifetime ban on felon disenfranchisement, according to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which led the effort to overturn the ban.
The number is well short of what the group’s leader had hoped for. But it was boosted in recent months by a surge in registrations by people with felony convictions, according to Neil Volz, the coalition’s deputy director. In August, the group estimated about 50,000 people with felonies had registered to vote.
Not known is how many of the 67,392 people are on the rolls but ineligible to vote because they owe court fees, fines or restitution. Volz said the group didn’t have that information immediately available.
In 2018, nearly two-thirds of Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which ended Florida’s 150-year-old ban on felon voting. It restored the right to vote to nearly all felons who completed “all terms” of their sentence.
Last year, Republican legislators passed a law defining “all terms” to include all court fees, fines and restitution to victims. The law, which was based on statements from Amendment 4′s supporters, severely restricted the number of felons who would be eligible to vote.
About 75 percent of people with felony convictions still owe fines or fees in Florida. One group estimates 900,000 felons can’t vote because of the law, making Florida the nation’s leader in the number of people it disenfranchises.
While state election officials will soon start the process to remove felons from the rolls who owe court fees or fines, none of them are expected to be removed before the Nov. 3 election.
Since Amendment 4 took effect in January 2019, the Rights Restoration Coalition has collected money to pay off the fines and fees of about 40,000 people, totaling nearly $27 million, according to Volz. Not all of those people have registered to vote, however.
“We’ll fight every day just so that one person can have the right to vote,” Volz said.
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