Florida voters made a choice in November 2018 that affected more than 1 million other Floridians. They voted to approve Amendment 4, which gave Floridians with felony convictions the right to vote. This did not apply to felons with murder or sexual offense convictions. But the amendment did include felons who had convictions for other offenses, such as drugs, fraud or assault.
If you have finished serving your time in prison, you may be excited to vote in the next presidential election. But have you heard of Senate Bill (SB) 7066? The governor of Florida signed it into law shortly after Amendment 4 and changed the rules about felon voting rights. This bill may have taken away your right in Florida.
Senate Bill 7066
SB 7066 contains a phrase that keeps voting rights from some Florida felons. It says that felons will have the right to vote only when they have “completed all the terms of his or her sentence.”
The “terms of a sentence” refers to two things:
- Mandatory actions: You must complete any required probation, parole or mandated community service before you can vote again.
- Payment due: If you have any outstanding debt related to your crime, you won’t be able to vote until you pay it back. This debt could be court-ordered payment, court filing fees or probation-related fees.
If you suspect you have outstanding debt, you’re not alone. A University of Florida professor found that more than 80% of felons have unpaid fines or fees related to their felonies.
Your unpaid debt has a legal term: legal financial obligations (LFOs). Florida is one of the states that uses LFOs to pay for the court system. Unfortunately, there is no statewide department or database responsible for tracking your LFOs. It can be incredibly hard for an ex-con to figure out exactly how much they owe.
One option is to contact the Florida Department of Corrections. Their records of your case may give you the information you need. If that doesn’t work, you can try contacting the county where you were prosecuted.
Once you find your records and pay your debts, you can enjoy the right that was restored by Amendment 4. And make sure you do take advantage of that right—voting can be your way to change the world.