So, what can little me do about helping to secure a Democratic victory on Nov. 3? Plenty.
As you may know, in 2018 the Florida Legislature passed an amendment that returned the right to vote to 1.68 million ex-felons. However, the Republican-controlled Legislature tactically responded with a contravening law requiring that to restore the right to vote, the ex-convict must first pay any and all past-due fines and court fees.
The issue is currently being battled out in the courts; on Friday, backers of the expansion of voting rights lost an important battle. The 11th Circuit federal appeals court on Friday overturned a judge’s ruling that Floridians with felony convictions don’t have to pay off all court fees and fines before voting. On Thursday, the Supreme Court, also without explanation, refused to lift the 11th Circuit’s temporary order blocking felons from registering or voting. (Dissenting were the court’s liberal justices: Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.)
The estimated 85,000 who already are registered could be prosecuted if they vote and it turns out they have not paid the fees or fines owed. The state of Florida, however, has no central listing of this information, and the Legislature created no system to help felons ascertain how much, if anything, they owed.
In response the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a grassroots membership organization run by Returning Citizens (Formerly Convicted Persons) was formed and dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions.
The coalition was endorsed with a $100,000 commitment by More Than A Vote, an organization started by NBA superstar LeBron James and other Black athletes and entertainers. Its website lays out multiple opportunities for participation. Its slogan: “Change isn’t made by watching from the sidelines.”
By way of background, the 2016 United States presidential election in Florida was won by Donald Trump with a margin over Hillary Clinton by a mere 1.2 percent. Currently, Real Clear Politics and CNN polling for Florida has Biden up 1.2 percent over Trump; thus, it’s a statistical tie.
All the pundits agree that if the Biden/Harris ticket wins Florida, Trump has virtually no path to victory — no way of obtaining the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency. For the record, Florida has voted for the eventual president in 11 of the past 12 elections. This year, it will again be one of just a handful of states that could turn the Electoral College toward or away from Trump.
Adding 1.68 million ex-felons to the voting roles could be the decider. Your donation to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition could literally save our democracy. (The website is wegotthevote.org/finesandfees.)
And if donating isn’t enough, you can link up with the Democrats 2020 Victory platform and sign up for making computer-assisted voter-turnout calls to people in swing states. There’s an online training that quickly gets you up to speed.
In it, you’ll learn that calling increases voter turnout by 3.5 percent. This matters significantly because the 2016 election turned on the slimmest of margins in the swing states of Pennsylvania (1.1 percent), Wisconsin (0.9 percent), Michigan (0.2 percent) and dear Florida (1.2 percent). That’s 75 electoral votes that easily could have gone the other way. Yes, your engagement and participation with the aforementioned organizations could literally save our democracy.