ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida voters approved Amendment 4 in 2018 to restore voting rights to nearly 1.4 million Floridian former felons, according to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.
FRRC, the group fighting to restore the voting rights of returning citizens, held a weekend convention at the Doubletree SeaWorld in Orange County to celebrate 10 years of advocating for voters.
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“FRRC is the reason I got my voting rights back,” said Tanaine Jenkins, who spent time in prison and said she wasn’t able to vote for eight years. “My voice matters and it’s like, when I became a felon, it took my voice away.”
Amendment 4 restores the voting rights of Floridians convicted of felonies after they complete the terms of their sentence, except for those convicted of murder or sexual offenses.
Neil Volz, deputy director of the FRRC, agrees that restoring the voting rights of returning citizens is a huge step forward, but the system is still flawed. In response to Gov. DeSantis’ announcement regarding the arrest of 20 people that allegedly illegally voted in the 2020 election, Volz said more work had to be done.
“There’s one instance where a gentleman was talking about how he hadn’t voted in decades and he had been told by his government that he could and what an experience. He was like, ‘I want to be a part of my community.’ That isn’t the sound of somebody who is committing voter fraud. That’s somebody that is operating in the system that doesn’t work right,” Volz said. “When someone has a stake in the community, all the data shows that people are less likely to reoffend and more likely to get employment and then the cycle just feeds itself.”
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A statement on the FRRC website also addressed the recent arrests, placing blame on the state for poor stewardship of its own election infrastructure.
“FRRC passed Amendment 4 in 2018 so that people with past convictions could vote. Now the State of Florida is arresting returning citizens for voting even though the State of Florida has failed to invest in election infrastructure to maintain the voter rolls,” the statement reads. “Many returning citizens cannot afford bail, which stops them from working, caring for their families, and contributing to their community.”
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