Exploring automatic voter registration, rights restoration

Solutions journalism aims to find real answers to today’s problems

ORLANDO, Fla.While off-year elections like Tuesday’s are often covered with less fanfare, issues surrounding who can vote, how to vote and what voting looks like remain hot-button questions.

On Solutionaries, we explore the ongoing efforts to ensure every eligible citizen has easy access to exercise their voting rights, from former felons to non-English speaking Americans.

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Restoring voting rights

“The system is broken on the front end, and that’s where we need to focus our solution,” said Neil Volz, Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

Despite Florida voters deciding overwhelmingly in 2018 to allow felons who have completed their sentences to automatically have their voting rights restored, the path has been anything but straightforward.

In fact, many ex-felons, or “returning citizens,” who completed their sentence but had not paid all fines and court fees or were convicted of violent offenses actually received voter registration cards in the mail — leading some to believe their rights had actually been restored.

This was a common theme among 20 people arrested by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ election police for allegedly voting illegally in the 2020 election.

“Those same voters have gotten voter ID cards from the very government who is now charging them,” Volz said. “Ultimately, we’re dealing with a data management problem. We should bring in the best experts we can, and then put the systems and processes together so that we can simply give somebody a yes or no within a short period of time once they register to vote.”

Volz said the state needs a centralized database where people with felony convictions can check their eligibility.

Read more here.

Find answers about voter eligibility in Florida and see if you are legally registered by clicking here.

Automatic Voter Registration

As of this year, 24 states and the District of Columbia have enacted automatic voter registration policies.

Florida is not one of them.

See how the policy is working in Georgia and how a recent technical error may have left hundreds of eligible citizens off the voter rolls.

The Language of Voting

When you go to vote, you expect to see crisp pieces of paper, the names of candidates in order, races and issues neatly fit into boxes and clearly separated and easy to read.

But what about in a language you speak?

Solutionaries breaks down the federal law ensuring ballots are printed in other languages in non-English speaking communities.

Misinformation vs. Disinformation

Increasingly during an election year, the terms “misinformation” and “disinformation” have become more common, especially when it comes to media coverage of elections.

What do those terms mean and how have they become an issue for how elections are covered?

Fergus Bell — the founder and CEO of Fathm, an independent news lab and consulting organization — offers insight into key questions surrounding misinformation and disinformation.

Bell offered the following ways where misinformation and disinformation can be prevented:

  • Check the source and identify why someone might be sharing or creating it.
  • Check the history of the person sharing it.
  • Copy and paste info onto a network.
  • Don’t assume everything is misinformation. A majority of information is genuine content. It’s important to be smart and have diverse sources.

Read more here.

A new episode of Solutionaries is available every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. on News 6 and on News 6+ for your smart TV (Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Google TV).

About the Authors:

Katrina Scales is a producer for the News 6+ Takeover at 3:30 p.m. She also writes and voices the podcast Your Florida Daily. Katrina was born and raised in Brevard County and started her journalism career in radio before joining News 6 in June 2021.

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.