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Florida Rights Restoration Coalition's Neil Volz Says Barriers Still Exist Between Returning Citizens and the Ballot Box

Photo: Neil Volz
Photo: Neil Volz

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition says there’s financial barriers stopping returning citizens in the state from participating in this National Voter Registration Day.

Returning citizens who have completed their sentences are allowed to vote in Florida under Amendment 4, but they must pay all required fines and legal fees first.

Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Director Neil Volz, a returning citizen and voter himself, says these financial obligations are keeping hundreds of thousands of voters like him from the ballot box.

Volz says many simply can't afford to pay these fees. 

“You know us. We live on hope. So we also feel like we’re in this Dickens novel. Right? Where on the one hand we’ve seen the largest expansion of democracy in 50 years happen here in our state. And on the other hand there are real-world challenges for many, many people who simply want to have their voice heard in their community and we know what that can do for communities all across the state when we allow that to happen.”

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Volz says there are also many more returning citizens who are paid in full, but can’t get an assurance from the state that they’re now eligible to register to vote.

“We don’t have a statewide system that can provide assurances to returning citizens in real time. So one of the things that we have is. We actually have a call center and an attorney assistance program. So that returning citizens can reach out to FRRC. We have people available to help on a one-on-one basis."

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Volz says ahead of the 2020 election, the group helped to register some 40,000 returning voters in the Sunshine State.

Register to vote here (registrarse para votar aqui).

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter and fill-in host at WMFE.