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New Pro Bono Legal Hotline Helps Fla. Ex-Felons Check Voter Eligibility

Early voting sign
David Luckin
/
WJCT News
Early voting sign

The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Florida has launched a pro bono legal hotline for ex-felons to have their voting rights status checked by a legal representative.

People with prior felony convictions got their right to vote back in 2018 when Amendment 4 was overwhelmingly approved by Florida voters, but an ongoing court battle regarding the implementation of the initiative has complicated the process. 

A September ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals requires felons to pay off all fines and fees tied to their sentences before their voting rights can be restored — a move voting rights groups describe as an unconstitutional “poll tax.”

Recent analyses from The Tampa Bay Times, The Miami Herald, ProPublica and Georgetown University found that fewer than 8% of Florida’s felons have registered to vote since Amendment 4 passed.

The LWV’s new effort will connect ex-felons who are questioning their records on fines and fees or voting status with lawyers or legal representatives at no cost.

“Education about ‘all things voting’ is one of the leading missions of the league,” said Cecile Scoon, 1st Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “We are pleased to offer this service to aid the tens of thousands of voters who have registered after 2018’s Amendment 4 passed.”

The initiative is being supported by the Florida Restoration of Rights Coalition (FRRC), the group that led the movement behind the 2018 ballot initiative.

“There is much concern and confusion about whether people with felony convictions can vote,” said Neil Volz of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. “The league’s program has become a potential lifeline to many returning citizens who have questions about whether they can vote in the upcoming presidential election or not.”

Returning citizens who want to use the new LWV service can call the hotline at 407-710-5496 or email CanIVote@LWVFL.org.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.