Here is a simple thing you can do today if you’re having election-related anxiety palpitations like me: You can help formerly incarcerated people in Florida exercise their constitutional right to vote by paying off their court debt.
Florida will be a crucial state in the coming presidential election, where Joe Biden is currently maintaining a very slight edge over Trump, who won the state by less than 113,000 votes in 2016. The voter-registration deadline is October 5, and this time around, there are about 1.5 million more eligible voters who will be casting their ballots — at least there should be.
In 2018, Floridians overwhelmingly voted to restore voting rights to residents with past felony convictions, enfranchising 1.2 million people who previously couldn’t vote for their own representation. But Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law — which was hastily passed by the Republican legislature — that requires voters who have completed their prison sentence and/or probation period to also have paid off all of their court debts, including fines, fees, and restitution, before they can exercise their right to vote. That pay-to-vote law, voting rights advocates say, disenfranchises as many as 775,000 formerly incarcerated people all over again. (These would-be-voters are also disproportionately Black, and statistically more likely to vote for Democrats, which helps explain why the GOP has worked so hard to bar them from voting.) After a group challenged the law as unconstitutional, most of it was thrown out by a lower-court judge, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals just upheld it, giving DeSantis and the Republican Party at large a major victory.
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is raising money for a fund, 100 percent of which will go toward paying the fines and fees of Floridians with past felony convictions. Via this easy donation link, you can give any amount. This very well could help sway this upcoming election, but even if it doesn’t, eliminating the burden of court debt is a worthy cause. And it really only takes two minutes — I timed myself.