ORLANDO, Fla. – As the deadline arrives to register to vote in Florida, an organization is working to help make sure more returning citizens get the chance to vote next month in the general election.
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has been working to pay off fines and fees for the 1.4 million returning citizens who owe fines and fees before they can vote.
So far, officials with the FRRC said they’ve paid $25 million in fees and fines for returning citizens statewide. They wrote a check Monday for $1.5 million to pay off past fines for 1,500 returning citizens who qualify in Orange County. They say the money is from celebrities, athletes and other generous people who donated.
“Every dollar is a person. A real person who’s yearning to express themselves,” said Neal Volz, a returning citizen who also works for the FRRC.
Marquis McKenzie is also a returning citizen who works for the FRRC.
“One time I was on this side of the field causing all of the trouble, and now I’m on this side advocating and saving lives for this side of the people, and I encourage them don’t give up, despite your past,” McKenzie said.
For people like Wayne Smith, Monday, the deadline to register, was crunch time to try and vote next month in the general election.
“It’s important for me to get the right person in the chair,” Smith said. “This is my first time, 57 years old (and) never voted.”
Smith said his past should not hinder his right to vote.
“I’m not a robber. I’m not going down breaking into people’s stuff. I just got caught up and have to pay those fines back,” he said.
The FRRC also has a 24/7 hotline to help people sort out their fines and fees they owe.
“Our work will continue beyond this deadline, beyond this election, until all 1.4 million people have had their barriers removed,” Volz said.
To see if you qualify, or if you have questions about your fines owed, call the FRRC’s 24/7 hotline at 1-877-my-vote-0 or visit https://floridarrc.com.