Felon disenfranchisement is a major issue all over the country. Most felons are not permitted to vote, which prevents them from making decisions about politicians and issues that could directly impact them. A historic constitutional amendment has restored the right to vote to former felons in Florida, but there are still debates about the details of this new legislation.
The new law allows all ex-felons, save for those convicted of murder or sex crimes, to vote in elections. However, the amendment does come with a provision that all remaining fines, penalties, and restitution must be paid off before the person is entitled to vote. According to many activists, this presents a major problem, as many people are unable to pay off their obligations in a timely manner. Being a felon also makes it much harder to secure gainful employment and quality housing, which affects ex-felons and their families on a financial level.
There is also the issue of how Florida treats fines in the state. There is no central authority responsible for overseeing fines, so many ex-felons are not even sure of the exact amount they owe. A coalition has been established to help determine how much they owe, as well as provide resources to help them pay down their debt at a faster rate. The sooner the debt has been paid down, the faster the person can begin participating in elections again.
This help is crucial when considering that up to 80% of felons have fees they must pay as part of their incarceration and probation. Additionally, some people characterize the requirement as a poll tax and claim it is inherently unconstitutional. For a person to be truly rehabilitated after criminal wrongdoing, he or she must be able to participate freely in society, especially when it comes to civic duties.