Saturday, 22 February 2020

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CAIR-FL Welcomes State Attorney & FRRC Announcement on New Hillsborough County Process Removing Barriers for Voting Restoration Rights: Here's How it Works!

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Assalam Ailekum Florida residents and community members.

The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic-Relations (CAIR-Florida), the State’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today welcomed a new process that removes the barriers placed on voter registration for returning voters, as mandated by Amendment 4.

The Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition – in cooperation with the Hillsborough County Public Defender’s Office - have devised a way to help returning citizens with outstanding financial obligations get clarity on which obligations would bar them from registering - and address these obligations even if they cannot pay.  The process helps implement the wildly popular Amendment 4 passed by a majority of Floridians to restore voting rights to a large number of disenfranchised Floridians.

CAIR-Florida invites interested returning citizens to register either at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition website or at the Hillsborough County State Attorney website

*You may watch the video of the public announcement at the State Attorney’s Office for the 13th Judicial Circuit Facebook page (video starts at minute 4:30) and read State Attorney’s statement below:

State Attorney’s Office Restoration of Voting Rights for Returning Citizens

 HOW IT WORKS

After you complete the application to have your voting rights restored, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition with work with you to gather the necessary information to determine your eligibility.  If your application demonstrates that you are unable to pay the financial terms of your sentence, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition will forward your information to Hillsborough’s Office of the Public Defender. The Public Defender will review the information with you and prepare an appropriate motion for the Court to review. The Court will then determine if your sentence is eligible for modification for purposes of restoring your voting rights. If the Court approves, then a copy of the Court’s Order will be provided to Hillsborough’s Supervisor of Elections, and you will be able register to vote.

 

SUMMARY OF THE LAW

In November 2018, Floridians made history by overwhelmingly approving a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to most felons, commonly referred to as “Amendment 4.” State Attorney Andrew Warren is committed to fulfilling the promise of Amendment 4 and the will of Florida’s voters. The State Attorney’s Office, working with local partners, has created a process for implementing Amendment 4 to allow eligible citizens to have their voting rights restored.

Before passage of Amendment 4, Florida was one of only three states to permanently strip voting rights from anyone convicted of a felony. Florida is estimated to have nearly 1.7 million people disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, which represents more than 10 percent of Florida’s voting age population and accounts for 27 percent of all disenfranchised people across the country.

 Amendment 4 was a grassroots ballot initiative to restore the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions (excluding murder and sexual offenses) after completing all the terms of their sentence. In 2019, Florida lawmakers passed SB 7066, a new law regarding the restoration of voting rights. Consistent with Amendment 4 and SB 7066, our local jurisdiction has developed a process to restore voting rights for returning citizens who demonstrate an inability to meet the financial terms of their sentence. 

 

THIRTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT (HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY)

We are committed to implementing the law in a non-discriminatory manner. Amendment 4, as interpreted by SB 7066, requires a returning citizen to have paid all outstanding fines and court costs resulting from the conviction prior to having voting rights restored. A federal court in the Northern District of Florida, however, recently determined that a person’s inability to pay the financial terms of a sentence cannot be a basis to deny voting rights. Working together with the Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts, Office of the Public Defender, the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Administrative Office of the Courts, and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we created a process to ensure that the inability to pay outstanding fines and court costs is not a roadblock for anyone seeking to have voting rights restored.

Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and restoring the dignity and opportunity for returning citizens to vote will increase public safety and reduce the likelihood of reoffending. Restoring voting rights in a non-discriminatory manner is fair, will make our community safer, and is what Floridians wanted when they passed Amendment 4.

We are committed to working with returning citizens and will, along with our partners on this project, continue to monitor any new laws or court rulings that may impact this process.