CHIPLEY - The League of Women Voters of Florida has launched a pro bono legal effort in which any returning citizen (formerly convicted person) who may be unsure of their eligibility to vote can have their voting rights status checked by a legal representative.
People with prior felony convictions gained back the right to vote in 2018 after the majority of Florida’s electorate passed a ballot initiative. Returning citizens affected by the amendment have been subject to confusion and uncertainty time and time again due to a court battle surrounding the implementation of the initiative as well as recent late-issued guidance to Supervisor of Elections from Governor Desantis’s administration regarding felons on Florida’s voter rolls.
The League’s new effort will connect a person questioning their records regarding fines and fees or voting status with a lawyer or legal representative at no cost.
This effort is an extension of the League’s continued legal education (CLE) program that trains lawyers and legal professionals on how to help returning citizens navigate the legal system. The League’s CLE program was launched in 2019 shortly after the legislature passed SB 7066, the highly contested bill that drastically reduced the impact of the 2018 ballot initiative. The CLE program is approved by the Florida Bar Association for up to four hours credit.
“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.”
Both the CLE program and the new “clarity” effort have the support of the Florida Restoration of Rights Coalition (FRRC). FRRC is most known for leading the successful movement behind the 2018 ballot initiative and now works to break down any barriers returning citizens may have to voting from financial obligations (e.g. fines, fees, or court costs) as a result of the legislature’s interpretation of the 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,” Volz continued.
“For more than 100 years, we have fought to protect the rights of eligible voters and expand access for those who’ve been left out of our democratic process,” said Patricia Brigham, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “We’re happy to extend our fight to help returning citizens who want to participate in our democratic process as the state sadly continues it’s intentional disenfranchisement by sowing confusion.”
Returning citizens seeking legal clarity can call the League’s hotline dedicated to this program at 407-710-5496 or email CanIVote@LWVFL.org.
This article originally appeared on Washington County News: League of Women Voters of Florida Offers Free Legal Clarity