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ORLANDO, FL, August 5, 2020 — The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), with legal support from Dēmos, filed an amicus brief at the 11th Circuit in support of the late-May ruling in Jones v. DeSantis, which protects the promise of Amendment 4 by guaranteeing returning citizens can access the ballot—a decision being challenged by Fla. Governor Ron DeSantis in the pending appeal.
Ahead of the August 18 primary election, the group’s brief challenged “Florida’s arcane systems, inconsistencies across government offices, poor record keeping, and glacial bureaucracy” which have caused voting eligibility confusion for tens of thousands of the state’s at least 775,000 returning citizens who owe fines and fees.
“When you look at the story of FRRC leader Angel Sanchez, which is highlighted extensively in this brief, we see that Florida’s system is fundamentally flawed,” said FRRC Executive Director Desmond Meade. “Angel served his time, paid everything he was told to pay, registered to vote and voted—and now, due to poor recordkeeping and a possible misallocation of funds, he must fight to get his balance cleared. This is unacceptable.”
“Our brief urges the court to end the wealth discrimination Florida created when it conditioned restoration of voting rights on the payment of financial penalties even for people with no ability to pay or no idea what the State thinks they owe,” said Chiraag Bains, Director of Legal Strategies at Demos. “That is not what 5.1 million Floridians intended when they voted to end permanent disenfranchisement with Amendment 4. And it runs flagrantly afoul of the Constitution.”
In 2018, FRRC championed the passing of Amendment 4, which restored the voting rights to 1.4 million returning citizens in Florida. The Florida Senate then passed S.B. 7066 requiring returning citizens to pay all fines and fees in order to become eligible to vote—dubbed by many as a pay-to-vote system or poll tax due to how it disenfranchises minorities and the financially indigent.
To combat this, FRRC increased its voter registration efforts and established a Fines and Fees Program to help returning citizens clear their debts, complete their sentences and move forward with their lives. The program has helped thousands of people register to vote.
Both FRRC and Demos continue to fight for the enfranchisement of Florida’s returning citizens and for democracy as a whole.
FRRC is a grassroots, membership organization run by Returning Citizens (Formerly Convicted Persons) who are dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions and creating a more comprehensive and humane reentry system that will enhance successful reentry, reduce recidivism, and increase public safety. For more information, visit https://floridarrc.com.
Dēmos is a dynamic think-and-do tank that powers the movement for a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy. Through cutting-edge policy research, inspiring litigation, and deep relationships with grassroots organizations, Dēmos champions solutions that will create a democracy and economy rooted in racial equity. To learn more visit www.demos.org