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Florida's lack of a straightforward system to determine whether former felons have the right to vote

Gov DeSantis announces arrests of people who voted illegally.png
Gerard Albert III / WLRN
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Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters and press inside a Broward Courtroom. DeSantis announnced the arrests of 20 people for illegally voting while surrounded by Election Crimes and Security Office Director Peter Antonacci, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Secretary of State Cord Byrd, and Mark Glass, acting commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

In 2018 Florida voters passed Amendment 4 to the state constitution by a nearly two-thirds margin. The intent of the amendment was to restore voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation. It does not apply to Floridians convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

Despite strong bipartisan support, as soon as Amendment 4 passed, the Republican legislature passed legislation (Senate Bill 7066) limiting its scope to only include people who owed no money to the state.

In the leadup to the midterm elections Governor Ron DeSantis announced that the state of Florida’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security had arrested 20 people who allegedly had knowingly registered to vote illegally during the previous election in 2020. He said this was the first step in addressing wide-scale voter fraud — despite there being no evidence of such fraud in Florida.

The problem is, there is no straightforward way for former felons — or for election officials — to determine whether someone who has completed their sentence for a felony conviction has satisfied all requirements to be eligible to vote. And the people who were arrested were allowed to register to vote in 2020 without issue.

We dig into this story, and discuss whether there are efforts underway to create a system that could provide clarity for former felons and election officials as to who is, and is not, allowed to vote.

GUESTS:

Neil Volz, Deputy Director for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition

Patrick Berry, counsel in the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program