Can Felons Vote in Florida? 

Most felons who have served their sentences — including parole and probation — and have paid all their fines, restitution, and fees can vote in Florida elections.

Felon Voting Rights Restored, But Limited

In November 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 4. This measure restores voting rights to most felons upon completing their sentences, including parole and probation. People convicted of homicide and sexual offenses remained unable to vote.

In March 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7066, clarifying Amendment 4. The new state law required former felons to pay all court-ordered fees and restitution before registering. These fees and costs were terms of their sentence not included in Amendment 4. This law prevented nearly 775,000 felons from voting.

This kicked off a flurry of competing court cases and demands for injunctions. In October 2019, a lower court suspended SB 7066 for indigent plaintiffs who could not pay their court fees. The following May, the court ruled portions of SB 7066 were unconstitutional. It amounted to a "poll tax" under the 24th Amendment to the Constitution.

DeSantis appealed to the 11th Circuit Court, requesting a stay on the lower court's ruling. In September 2020, the appellate court issued the stay, and the voting rights advocates appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case without comment.

Finally, in a split decision (6-4), the full 11th Circuit Court ruled that the Florida law did not violate the due process clause and was not a "poll tax" as described by advocates. The matter is over unless there is a further action or constitutional amendment. It is now codified as Florida State Statute 98.0751.

Voting Rights for Former Felons?

Between the passage of Amendment 4 and the final ruling in September 2020, an unknown number of ex-felons took advantage of their supposed voter registration eligibility and registered for the 2020 general election. The dueling court cases and lack of central public records for outstanding fines and restitution caused inevitable confusion about who was eligible.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which spearheaded Amendment 4 and other voting rights efforts, has found that Florida lacks any method for tying felony convictions to fees and costs owed. No department tracks restitution paid to victims. Inmates are not told of any outstanding amounts on their release from prison.

The original county of jurisdiction also handles restoration of voting rights. Many cases could mean calling court clerks across the state for information years or decades old.

The net result leaves former felons in more or less the same place as they were before Amendment 4 passed. You can register to vote if you have completed your sentence and have met your financial obligations.

Registering to Vote in Florida

The Florida Department of State website has two ways convicted felons can restore their voting rights following release.

  • Visit the Florida Division of Elections page for the most current plain-language explanation of what you must do. This page explains how to find any amounts owing on your costs and restitution. You may be able to convert your financial obligations to community service or to have restitution forgiven.
  • If you do not qualify to have your rights restored because you committed a homicide or sexual assault, you can ask for executive clemency. The Office of Executive Clemency reviews requests on a case-by-case basis. You must fulfill all other terms of your sentence.

This disenfranchisement applies only to Florida felons. Those convicted of misdemeanors and pre-trial detainees may register to vote. If they are outside their county of residence, they may use mail-in ballots.

How Other States View Felon Voting Rights

The rules over whether to allow felons to vote vary by state, as does restoring those rights. Some states require a pardon from the state before restoring voting rights, while others automatically grant it upon a felon's unconditional release from prison. Others require a finding of mental competence.

Twenty-one states automatically restore felons' voting rights once they're released. Sixteen others restore those rights sometime after completing prison time or probation and parole.

Maine, Vermont, and the District of Columbia allow felons to vote while still in prison.

The Crime Committed Plays a Role

Sometimes, restoring a felon's voting rights depends on why they were convicted. For example, like Florida, Delaware has several "disqualifying" felonies such as murder or certain sex crimes.

Speak to an Attorney to Reinstate Your Voting Rights

Being released from prison can be exciting, but it is also overwhelming. If you're uncertain about your rights or if someone you love needs their voting rights restored, contact a local civil rights attorney.

Was this helpful?