The League of Women Voters Florida (LWVFL) announced January 7th, 2019, that they will deploy volunteers across the state to help millions of disenfranchised Floridians regain their voice as registered voters. Amendment 4, approved by voters in November, established Tuesday, January 8, 2018 as the date when Floridians who have completed their sentences for previous felony convictions (except murderers or felony sex offenders) can register to vote. These returning citizens have waited 150 years for this opportunity.
“The League is thrilled to be working with our coalition partners to guard against any delays in implementation of the will of the people,” said Patricia Brigham, LWVFL President. “The league has long stood for the voting rights of the excluded and we are overjoyed that we can work with returning citizens just as early league members worked to first enfranchise and then educate and increase women voters.”
League 1st VP and Amendment 4 Action Chair Cecile Scoon stated that “Amendment 4 is self-executing. No additional legislation is needed to implement Amendment 4 and any attempt to delay the implementation would be an affront to the resounding demand from voters to ‘let the people vote!’ The League and other coalition members who have worked long and hard for this day stand ready and willing to do all within their legal ability to guard against unlawful encroachment of Amendment 4.”
“Voting is essential to influencing all governmental activities and services and participating in decisions that impact their lives,” Brigham said. “We believe participating in these critical decisions will inspire and encourage returning citizens to face many life challenges and will also encourage more politicians to consider their needs.”
Amendment 4 won support from almost 64% of the electorate in November.
Returning citizens who know that they have completed their sentences and qualify for reinstatement can register to vote starting January 8th, 2019. Those who are not certain should verify their status before registering. Coalition partners can help answer frequently asked questions and they are partnering with community and government organizations that can assist returning citizens.
The League and its coalition partners stand ready to offer suggestions to state leaders charged with implementing the amendment researching whether returning citizens have completed their sentences.
If you or a loved one is planning to register to vote, below is some information that may be helpful. If you want to get involved in voter registration efforts, more information is available below.
Frequently Asked Questions about Amendment 4 implementation:
- When does Amendment 4 go into effect? The amendment goes into effect on January 8th.
- If I am a Returning Citizen who has completed all portions of my sentence, can I register to vote on January 8th? Yes
- What organization can I contact if I need help getting registered?
- Florida Rights Restoration Coalition: Floridaarrc.org.
- League of Women Voters of Florida: LWVFL.org
- If you have questions about registering to vote, you can contact: 1-877-698-6830.
- Does the legislature need to write rules to implement Amendment 4? No. The legislature does not need to write enabling legislation. The amendment is self-executing. The State has conceded this point in its ruling in the Hand v. Scottcase. This means that, unlike what we may have seen after Fair Districts or Medical Marijuana was passed, the legislature does not have to do anything to implement Amendment 4.
- What is the legislature’s role in Amendment 4 implementation? The legislature is responsible for oversight and funding of the government agencies responsible for administering the implementation of Amendment 4.
- Do Returning Citizens register through the normal voter registration process? Yes. The existing voter registration form is adequate and sufficient to immediately register individuals impacted by Amendment 4. Question #2 of that form asks individuals to “affirm that I am not a convicted felon, or if I am, my right to vote has been restored.” Individuals can check this box in the same way that they affirm they are U.S. Citizens (see Question #1 on the State’s Voter Registration Application Form). Individuals may also register via the Florida Online Voter Registration System.
- Do Returning Citizens need to bring proof of a completed sentence before registering? No. The responsibility of the citizen is to honestly affirm that, by completing the terms of their sentence, their voting rights have been restored – because, if they have completed their sentence, the voters’ rights have been restored.
- What does it mean to complete all portions of my sentence? We believe that “completion of all terms of sentence” includes any period of incarceration, probation, parole and financial obligations imposed as part of an individual’s sentence. These financial obligations may include restitution, fines and fees imposed as part of a sentence or a condition of probation under existing Florida statute. That said, fees not specifically identified as part of a sentence or a condition of probation are therefore not necessary for ‘completion of sentence’ and thus, do not need to be paid before an individual may register. These are the policies used by the Office of Offender Review to determine “completion of sentence” and therefore consistent with current state practices.
- Where can I find more information online about whether I’ve completed the terms of my sentence?
For more information, you can contact a number of state organizations including:
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement: http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/
- Florida Commission on Offender Review: https://www.fcor.state.fl.us/
- Florida Clerks of County Courts: https://www.stateofflorida.com/clerks-of-court.aspx
- Florida Supervisors of Election: https://dos.myflorida.com/elections/
- Florida Department of Corrections: http://www.dc.state.fl.us/
For information on how to register voters: Third-Party-Regis-guidelines.pdf
To download the LWVFL Powerpoint Presentation on how to register voters, click here.