Dear Members and Advocates,

I don’t get it! What’s the harm in voting?

There are a lot of restrictions when it comes to consequences of a felony conviction, some make more sense than others. No possession of firearms? Seems a bit harsh to pass a blanket ban on a constitutional right for those whose crimes had nothing to do with a gun or violence, but I guess they feel that someone not responsible enough to abide by laws shouldn’t have access to a deadly weapon. Ineligibility for public benefits? Also harsh, considering housing and welfare benefits are what will prevent someone from returning to a criminal enterprise to support their families, but I can see how the limited supply of government resources should be prioritized by first going to those without convictions. But voting?!?! No matter how hard I’ve tried to come up with a valid justification for not being able to vote, I always find myself at a loss.

Amendment 4 was a particular disaster for our population, because its intent was to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have completed their sentences, other than those with a murder or sexual offense conviction. That ‘other than’ not only added another unique collateral consequence to persons required to register as sex offenders, but enshrined that discrimination into the Florida Constitution. It was something the ACLU supported that hurt us deeply. After the passage of Amendment 4, lawmakers still desperately tried to prevent felons in Florida from voting by insisting that completion of a sentence included payment of all fees and fines. Something that according to a University of Florida study 80% of those with felony convictions can’t afford to do. The challenge was brought to the Courts and as of last week it was ‘current administration – 1, ex-felons – 0’.

The passage of Amendment 4 already clarified to me that as a person required to register I have nothing coming to me, so then why do I continue to care about restoration of voting rights for former felons? Several reasons. First, as a victim of injustice, I have become more sensitive to injustice everywhere. It’s just wrong that a more affluent ex-felon can vote, but others can’t. Second, Florida is one of only 8 states that don’t automatically restore voting rights when probation ends (some never take it away to begin with and allow even inmates to vote) and it has more disenfranchised citizens than any other state. It really upsets me that instead of trying to restore our citizens to meaningful lives, Florida keeps trying so hard to keep people down. Third, it’s pretty hard to ignore the fact that one in five African American adults in Florida are disenfranchised. Clearly there are political and racial undertones behind Florida’s staunch position on felon voting rights and especially today, Martin Luther King Day, I am saddened to realize what a disservice our government is doing to the memory of the civil rights hero.

Finally, I had hoped that Amendment 4 would help clear the queue of people who still had to go through the clemency process in order to beg for their voting rights back. Currently there are tens of thousands still waiting for the opportunity to come before the clemency board. A backlog that will take years to get through. My hope was that an automated process would clear the way for only those with murder or sex offense convictions to have to go through the groveling process. Now, apparently not so.

Florida’s disenfranchisement issue just reminds me of how disparate some of these laws are and how necessary it is for the Federal government to come in and fix things. This year we have a presidential election. I, in Florida, will not be able to vote for our nation’s president, but someone who committed the same exact federal crime as I did in Maine (for example), will. It’s illogical. There is nothing that makes me less qualified to vote, makes the voting process a greater risk to public safety in Florida or any other reason that I can creatively think of that would justify being disenfranchised. It’s simply unfair!

Finally, below our Weekly Update we always include some headlines from the week. This week, the first headline comes from an article in Reason which profiled several courageous women who are pioneering the registry reform movement. Today, as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, please take a moment to recognize and appreciate these women as the civil rights heroes of our population. Thank you for all you do!

Sincerely,

The Florida Action Committee


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Reminders:

Mon Jan 27, 2020 – Central Broward County – 6-9pm.  Community Event “A Courageous Conversation on Sexual Offense Issues”. Includes a public viewing of “Untouchable” documentary followed by a discussion of expert panelists.  For reservations, use https://floridaactioncommittee.org/event

Free Registrant Peer Support group (no therapist) meets in Pinellas Park area on 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month at 5:30 pm.

Free therapist-led Family Support session (no registrants) meets monthly in Central Broward County.Next session is Sat Feb 1st from 11am-1pm.

Feb 20th – Local Meet-and-Greet in Lakeland (Polk County).

Seating is limited for all events. For more information, or to RSVP email [email protected] or call 904-452-8322.  No children please.


SOME HEADLINES FROM THIS WEEK

 

Sex Offender Laws Are Broken. These Women Are Working To Fix Them

All 50 states have sex offender registries, and the U.S. Justice Department combines them in a single national database. The information, which is available online to the general public, covers nearly 1 million people, whose crimes run the gamut from streaking to…

11th Circuit Court of Appeals requests oral argument in Does v. Miami-Dade

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals today determined that oral arguments will be necessary in John Doe #1, et al v. Miami-Dade County, et al (Case No. 19-10254). The appeal originates from a case initiated in 2014 brought on behalf of registrants in Miami-Dade County…

New Bill from Sen. Lauren Book to eliminate SOL for Sexual Battery and establish a “look back window” for civil suits

According to NPR affiliate WGCU, Florida Senator Lauren Book is trying to create a “look back window” where victims of sexual battery can bring a civil lawsuit, where previously barred by statute of limitations. This window would allow victims to file civil suits…

Aging offenders need to be considered

Every morning I scan the news for headlines containing certain keywords, so I can report any relevant updates to our membership. Among the results today, I find the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office’s publication of a sexual predator moving into Boynton Beach, as published…

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