Democracy in Practice
A diverse people can self-govern

Status of Voter Rights + Felon rights in Florida

Voting rights have expanded and contracted through history. As new groups have sought the franchise of democracy, the path hasn’t always been an easy (or speedy) one. Still, what began as a right given only to certain landed white men by our framers has become a universal right to all American citizens. Yet our state of Florida has historically had one of the most restrictive state laws on restoration of voting rights after a convicted felon has served his or her sentence. Advocates to restore felon voting rights achieved a major victory with the passage of Amendment 4 in the 2018 election. But since then, legislators have interpreted the new law to mean that ex-felons must pay all fines related to their crime before the restoration. What has ensued is a bureaucratic challenge in defining and administering this process and flaring tempers. We’ll host an update on where this process stands now.

Possible panelists: The head of “Let My People Vote” (Desmond Meade) at least did live in Tampa area. Andrew Gillum might be another possible panelist (he’s a friend, so I can ask). NOTE ON THIS TOPIC: I’m including it because locations expressed an interest in it, but care needs to be exercised that it doesn’t seem too political — and/or it has political balance. (This topic seems like a good fit for Sarasota.) In some locations it might be too risky to do if you can’t get a really compelling and likable conservative panelist who makes a good argument for why the current procedures instituted by the legislature make sense and aren’t modern-day Jim Crow (because that’s what they’ll be accused of). Or maybe a REALLY great person from the Secretary of State’s office would do the trick as a guest — making it much more of an administrative update, not an us v. them political thing. You don’t want an event that invites ex-felons looking for an update and a conservative politician unless you’re really sure you know what you have. The next topic may be a little safer, though related.