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Civil Rights Organization Vows to Continue Fight to Ensure All Eligible Floridians Can Register and Vote, Despite Efforts to Undermine Amendment 4

WASHINGTONFriday evening, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law new legislation subverting the will of 5 million Floridians who voted to end the state’s legacy of felony disenfranchisement. The legislation erects new barriers and administrative hurdles to voter registration for those with prior felony convictions who are eligible to vote. The law comes mere months after Floridians overwhelmingly voted in favor of Amendment 4, a ballot measure that automatically restores the right to vote of Floridians with prior felony convictions. Advancement Project National Office, a multi-racial civil rights organization released the following statement:

“The law’s requirement to pay fines, fees and restitution to become eligible to vote maintains lifetime disenfranchisement for Floridians of color disproportionately caught in the criminal legal system,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project’s National Office. For people who face discrimination and barriers finding work after a felony conviction, fines and fees keep people trapped in the criminal legal system for a lifetime, unable to buy back their freedom.” Requiring even civil fines be paid directly counters the will of voters who in passing Amendment 4 intended to end lifetime disenfranchisement. Unfortunately, the unjust, lifetime burdens of mass incarceration not only includes locking people in cages, but also keeping them in a veritable debtors’ prison long after release. It is despicable that the legislature and Governor DeSantis deny those caught in this debtors’ prison their fundamental right to vote.”

“The voters have had their say, casting their ballots overwhelmingly for the right to vote. We will not be deterred by Florida lawmakers’ efforts to undercut Amendment 4 by making it harder for people with felony convictions to get on the voting rolls,” continued Browne Dianis. “We will double down our efforts to clear roadblocks to registration and ensure that all eligible voters are able to register and to vote.”

“To be clear, this legislation is about deterring Floridians who are less likely to vote for the current crop of legislators from casting a ballot – and that means Black, Brown and poor people,” said Denise Lieberman, Power & Democracy director at Advancement Project National Office.  “We cannot divorce this legislation from the state’s long-standing history of using felony disenfranchisement as a tool to prevent Black and Brown people from building political power. We will continue to support our partners like the Florida Right Restoration Coalition, New Florida Majority and the Dream Defenders as they register and support Floridians with prior felony convictions.”

Governor DeSantis’ signage of the legislation comes on the heels of a congressional hearing hosted by the U.S. House Committee on Administration in Broward County at which Dianis testimony focused on voting rights in Florida.

Read Browne Dianis testimony: FLA Field Hearing Testimony 5-6-19

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Advancement Project National Office is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high-quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.

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