With so much uncertainty surrounding what’s going to happen over the next few weeks, a lot of us are feeling pretty anxious about the upcoming elections. And while there’s so much that’s beyond our control, there are things we can do to help get out the vote, starting with making sure we’re registered on time ourselves.
But if you’re looking for another way to make a difference, and happen to be in the position of being able to make a donation, there’s something you can do to help enfranchise Florida voters with past felony convictions. Here’s how to do that, and why it matters.
So here’s the situation. Back in 2018, the residents of Florida voted to restore voting rights to the approximately 1.2 million people in the state who were previously convicted of a felony, and therefore, had been disenfranchised. Great! But not so fast: In 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that seriously limited the ability for people with past felony convictions to vote.
Basically, it’s a pay-to-vote policy: Florida residents with past felony convictions are only permitted to vote if they have completed their prison sentence and/or probation period, and have paid off all of their court debts, including fines, fees and restitution. This could effectively (re)disenfranchise up to 775,000 people in the upcoming election.
Though the 2019 law was challenged in court, on September 11, 2020, a federal appellate court ruled to uphold it, siding with DeSantis. “This ruling runs counter to the foundational principle that Americans do not have to pay to vote,” Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project told the Associated Press. “The gravity of this decision cannot be overstated. It is an affront to the spirit of democracy.”
Now, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is raising funds to cover fines and fees for Florida voters with former felony convictions who once again found themselves disenfranchised. They’ve already secured some major donors, like Michael Bloomberg and John Legend, and 100% of the money raised will go towards the paying off the voters’ outstanding debts.
And while they’ve brought in several million dollars already, they are only 72% of the way to their goal. If you’re interested in helping out with that, you can make a donation here.