May 31, 2021
We are four days away from an election and as a criminal defense attorney the question I am being asked the most by former clients is—how do I get my voting rights back? The answer—as everything else in Florida—is not simple.
To understand the complexity of Florida election law, with respect to felons restoring their voting rights, we need to start at the beginning. For almost 200 years, Florida has, in one way or another, prevented former felons from being able to vote in federal or state elections. In the last 10 years that changed a bit– former felons would be required to petition the state’s parole commission board to ask for the restoration of their civil rights.
However, in November of 2018, Florida voters took to the polls and overwhelmingly voted to allow former felons—except those convicted of murder and sexual offenses—the right to vote. Done deal, right? Not quite. Remember, this is Florida.
Governor DeSantis issued an executive order preventing former felons from voting until they have completed their “entire” sentence— including all fines and court costs. As a criminal defense attorney, these fines and court costs are usually astronomical sums of money for people who have been incarcerated.
My advice to clients facing this situation? Hire a lawyer AFTER this election cycle. There are lawsuits running through our judicial system regarding this very issue. Former felons are filing suit to have their right to vote restored. Be very cautious of any lawyer promising to get your right to vote restored PRIOR to this election cycle. This is currently being litigated in our judicial system and as we all know, these things take time.
Wishing everyone a safe and fun election season.