Dear Members and Advocates,

Last month for our July 4th Weekly Update we wrote about the Declaration of Independence and the events that led up to the Colonists’ declaring independence from British rule. This week we are reminded of another issue that had made things so intolerable that people had to fight back against their own government. The year was 1773, and an advocacy group called the “Sons of Liberty” from Massachusetts was protesting the “Tea Act”. The Tea Act was another of the many grievances the Colonists had against Great Britain – they were being taxed by a government that did not represent them. In protest, the Sons of Liberty boarded ships importing tea into Boston Harbor and dumped the tea overboard while exclaiming the slogan “no taxation without representation”!

More than 250 years later, American citizens are facing a very similar oppression. A segment of the population is being taxed by a government that does not represent them. They are excluded from voting, so they have no opportunity to elect their representatives, and those who rule over this population completely disregard their needs. This past weekend Governor Ron DeSantis stood at a press release, flanked by a dozen or so law enforcement officers, announcing that twenty (20) people had been arrested for voter fraud. These people were not stuffing ballot boxes with forms from dead people, they were not hacking into voting machines to artificially register votes, they were not maliciously trying to rig the system in order to influence the outcome of an election. They were merely people who mistakenly believed they were able to vote, so they cast an individual ballot. The reason the story made headlines and called for a press conference was because many of the people arrested were on the sex offender registry.

The press conference drew mixed reactions. One Orlando station showed a picture of a man in a jail uniform standing at his bond hearing below the headline “Sex Offenders Voted Illegally in Orange County”. While the Miami Herald displayed some restraint with their headline, “‘How did I commit fraud?’ Ex-felon voters confused by arrests”. Unfortunately, the result will be dozens of people who had no idea they were unable to vote and with no malicious intent thought they were fulfilling a civic duty by casting a ballot, will be charged with a felony as a result. Among those featured in the “Sex Offenders Voted Illegally” story was an 84 year old man who was quoted as saying he “thought all of that was cleared up” by Amendment 4 (a recent Florida Law that restored voting rights of Ex-Felons EXCEPT those with murder or sex offense convictions). The story also featured a 71 year old man who also didn’t know he couldn’t vote.

The stories elicited a flurry of emails and calls to FAC from people who are completely unclear about the voting rules when it comes to people on the registry. Undoubtedly the voting activity of thousands more out there will be chilled for fear of getting arrested for doing something that might be illegal but they are unsure. The confusion is partially because many of the news stories are erroneously reporting that persons on the sex offender registry are not able to vote, which is incorrect. Some are able to vote. Here’s the breakdown…

If you received a withhold of adjudication, you might be able to vote because technically you’ve never lost your right to vote in the first place. I write might because some who received a withhold of adjudication (not a conviction) for a sex offense, might have subsequently committed a technical registration violation such as forgetting to report a change of vehicle within 48 hours (a third degree felony). They would not be excluded from voting because of the sexual offense, but because of the registration violation they can’t. Or, you might have had your voting rights restored by a previous administration. When Charlie Crist was governor, he restored the voting rights for more than 155,000 people. Then came Rick Scott, who instituted a long waiting period for people with a sex offense, and finally came Ron DeSantis who issued an executive order summarily denying all pending restoration of voting rights applications for people on the registry. So you might be able to vote if you successfully petitioned for your voting rights through a previous administration, but if you petitioned through the current one, even after completing the required seven-year mandatory waiting period, you can’t.

Amendment 4 also created some confusion. Amendment 4 was a 2018 ballot measure that was overwhelmingly approved by Floridians. It served to restore voting rights of ex-felons. What some might have missed was the footnote that excluded anyone with a history of a sexual offense. The general statement that “Amendment 4” restored ex-felon’s voting rights created huge confusion, especially since there was a corresponding push to register people to vote. You couldn’t walk out of a supermarket without someone standing there with a clipboard signing people up. Then there is confusion concerning people with out of state convictions. Many members reached out to us who have old convictions from another state. They had their right to vote restored years ago in another state, voted legally in numerous elections, but never thought that their right to vote would again be stripped from them as soon as they crossed the Florida border to retire here.

Finally, Florida’s process makes it incredibly difficult to ascertain one’s voting rights status. Many members have contacted us completely confused about their status. They filled out an application, a month or so later they got a card in the mail with their voter number and they believed that meant they were eligible to vote. After all, if the State determined they couldn’t vote, wouldn’t they have denied their application? Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. Apparently Florida issues voter registration cards to anyone who fills out the form without regard to anything, and then arrests the ones that vote when they shouldn’t. Apparently it’s this state’s preference to create an “Office of Election Crimes and Integrity” that apprehends, prosecutes, and incarcerates people who vote when they shouldn’t, rather than use these same agents to screen applications. It might sound odd, but if they screened out the applications they wouldn’t get the opportunity to arrest and incarcerate these 70 and 80 year old guys who mistakenly cast a ballot and that’s not what Florida wants.

Then let’s delve into what Florida’s concern is with people on the registry voting. What’s the issue? Have there been an abundance of sexual assaults or murders at polling places? If so, can’t they accommodate that concern by mandating mail-in ballots for certain individuals? Or, do they think that people who have committed a sexual offense are simply unworthy of ever having a say in government? If that’s the case, isn’t this taxation without representation?

People, it’s time to grab your teabags! Pick up a phone and call the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition at 407-901-3749 (or email them at [email protected]) and hold them to their commitment that they will circle back and help those who they threw under the bus with Amendment 4. We need help NOW!

Sincerely,

The Florida Action Committee

ANNOUNCEMENTS

See Calendar of Events – Keep up with Meet-and-Greets in your area, Support groups, Membership Calls, and other events.  For questions, contact [email protected] or call 833-273-7325,Option 1.

Click Here for Calendar, and double click on the event to view details and RSVP instructions

Aug 26 – Women on the Registry Only Meet-and-Greet – Fort Lauderdale Special Guest Shawna Baldwin (Untouchable). Facilitated by Dr Jill Levenson. 2-5pm.  For Location, RSVP  to [email protected] or text 904-452-8322

Aug 27 – Meet and Greet in Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood- Special Guest Shawna Baldwin (Untouchable) and Shelley Kavanagh “Letting Go Of Labels”  11am-2pm.  For location, RSVP to m[email protected] or text 904-452-8322

Become a County Coordinator.  The only requirement is your desire to HELP us organize your county.  If you are interested in joining the County Coordinator Team, leave message at 833-273-7325, Option 1, or email [email protected]

Letter-Writing Campaigns – If you would like to participate in sending educational information to specific decision makers in Florida, please  contact [email protected].  Volunteers must be willing to proudly identify themselves by using their own name and return address on the letters.

SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK

Have you been impacted by Florida’s 3-day requirements or Driver’s License branding?

If you have been impacted by either (a) Florida’s 3-day reporting requirement for change in temporary residence, or (b) having your driver’s license branded with the unique identifier designating you are on the sex offender registry (or both a and b), we want to hear…

I have spent 25 years treating serious sexual offenders – this is what I’ve learned

Just about all of the offenders I’ve ever met don’t want to offend again, and most sexual offenders do not reoffend. They want to be useful members of society. However, released sexual offenders face many barriers to this: stigma, ostracism, lack of work, housing,…

Some motivating news stories

It’s been happening in many parts of the country. As more and more Courts see the light, our Cause is automatically strengthened and Florida looks more and more…

What We Know About the FBI’s Latest National ‘Human Trafficking’ Sting

Operation Cross Country, the FBI’s annual vice squad bonanza disguised as a human-trafficking rescue mission, is back. This year’s operation was conducted throughout the first two weeks of August, involving more than 200 federal, state, and local law enforcement…

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Let's Spread Truth

Share this post!