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Big Bend Voting Rights Project aims to register voters under Amendment 4

Posted: 4:17 AM, Jul 18, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-18 04:17:25-04
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LEON COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — There's a push in Leon County to get ex-felons registered to vote after amendment 4 went into effect in January, restoring that right to people who have completed their sentence excluding convicted murderers and sex offenders.

However, a law passed this month requires ex-felons to pay any fines or restitution fees before casting their ballot which is stopping some from even registering.

"When we come home we really don't have the funds to pay court costs, fines and fees because we're just returning to society. We don't have jobs and we don't have ways of supporting our family," said Paula Hill, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

Paula Hill knows firsthand the challenges that come along with stepping back into society, after spending a few years behind bars.

"When you go to fill out a job application there's this box that says are you a convicted felon. You kind of freeze because that keeps a lot of us from getting jobs," said Hill.

Hill is working with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to help raise funds to pay off these court fees that are preventing some ex-felons from registering to vote.

But another issue, some don't even know they can register.

"They are the most marginalized people in our society, who are generally uninformed about their rights under amendment 4, and they don't have access to the kind of information you and I do. They tend to remember what they heard when they got out of prison or off probation," said Bob Rackleff, Big Bend Voting Rights Project.

That's why Bob Rackleff is spearheading the Big Bend Voting Rights Project . He, along with other volunteers, go door-to-door registering ex-felons to vote.

"Every person we do register is a success but we're trying to reach a rate of about 15 per week. By election day it will be about 1200 or so," said Rackleff.

The group has already registered close to 200 people in just a few months and they plan to keep that going making sure people like Hill know they have a platform to be heard.

"When the Florida voters did Amendment 4 and we won they gave us our voice back," said Hill.