Amendment Four

The Hillsborough State Attorney's office is starting a program aimed at giving convicted felons back their right to vote. And it revolves around money.

Amendment 4 was passed by voters in 2018. It allows people with felony convictions to regain their voting rights after they complete their sentences. But state lawmakers tacked on a provision that requires them to pay off existing fees first. So many ex-felons who can't afford it, can't vote.

Calling the process “an administrative nightmare,” a federal judge on Tuesday urged the Florida Legislature to revamp a state law aimed at carrying out a constitutional amendment that restores voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.

A federal judge is considering whether Florida lawmakers exceeded their authority by requiring former felons to pay fines and settle other legal debts as a condition of regaining their right to vote.

Newly filed court records are shedding light on the closely watched federal court case relating to voting rights for people with felony convictions. Several groups filed lawsuits against state and local officials after Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law tying the right to vote to paying all the fines and fees related to a felony conviction.

Andrew Gillum presents a check to Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo for voter registration efforts.
Steve Newborn / WUSF Public Media

Florida Democrats kicked off a plan Thursday to register 200,000 voters before the 2020 elections. Former candidate for governor Andrew Gillum gave it a kick start, presenting a check for $100,000 from his Forward Florida Action group to Terrie Rizzo, head of the Florida Democratic Party.