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League of Women Voters of Florida President Talks Felon Voter Registration Ahead Of Election

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The United States 11th District Court of Appeals is weighing whether a Florida law on felon voting rights is in line with the state's constitution. The League of Women Voters of Florida are awaiting a ruling so they can start registering felons before the October 18 deadline. Prior to the stay put in place by the court, felons could register to vote without paying back financial obligations. With November elections approaching the uncertainty is growing around whether they'll be able to participate in the November Presidential Election, November 3. League President Patricia Brigham speaks on the subject.

Blaise Gainey 0:00
Hey, I'm here with Patricia Brigham, the president of League of Women Voters Florida. How are you doing today?

Patricia Brigham 0:04
I'm fine. Thank you.

Blaise Gainey 0:06
All right. The deadline to register for the November elections is October 18. There's a global pandemic underway in the felon voting rights amendment is still mirrored in the courts. How have those things impacted your voter registration efforts?

Patricia Brigham 0:19
Well, the League has been working very hard to register ex-felons who, to the best of our knowledge do not owe any fines and fees. We partnered with ACLU Florida who obtained a list of felons, ex-felons from the Florida Department of Corrections. And we have been we've made a number of phone calls to those ex-felons or thousands of them on that list. And then we are now in the process of sending postcards to them and getting them registered or encouraging them to register to vote. So we have been involved in outreach to them and to the best of our ability because as you mentioned, we are in a pandemic. So we're not able to do person to person voter registration. This is a serious concern the full court issued a stay on Judge Robert Hinkle's opinion that would have allowed returning citizens to go ahead and register without fear of any kind of liability if they did still own fines and fees, but it's a difficult situation, we are not going to really know what the state of affairs will be until the court rules.

Blaise Gainey 1:42
Okay. And you said you have a list of which felons have paid off their fines and fees. How did voter outreach go with that population?

Patricia Brigham 1:49
I will say that we were able to register some there were many that the phone numbers were no longer working as you might imagine, but we reached out to those we could by phone, and now we've moved on to reaching out to them by postcards. To my knowledge, we did not receive any objection. Some of them had already registered. We were able to make sure that some registered but this is a tall order and a stiff climb because of the stay on Judge Robert Hinkle's ruling. We are really in limbo right now as to what is going to happen with the bulk of the returning citizens in Florida regarding the 2020 general election.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.