ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition helped thousands get their voting rights back just in time for the deadline to register to vote.
What You Need To Know
- The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition worked to help felons get registered to vote before Monday's deadline
- The group spent $1.5 million to help about 1,500 felons pay the court fees and fines
- Check to see if you're registered to vote
The Coalition is giving more than a million and a half dollars to help around 1,500 felons in Orange County get back their right to vote.
Marquis McKenzie, who was at Monday's announcement, says after being convicted at a young age, he thought he might never get to vote.
“At the age of 15 I didn’t think I was gonna make it to 30,” McKenzie said.
Now not only can he, but he’s helping others like him get their right to vote back too.
“One time I was on this side of the field causing all the trouble, and now I’m on this side, advocating and saving lives for people on this side of the field so it feels good,” McKenzie said.
Monday he and other members of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition presented $1,530,000 to the Orange County Clerk of Court's Office, pledged to help felons in the Orange County area pay their fines and fees.
After the Supreme Court did not remove the stay in the state’s appeal back in July, felons still have to pay their fines and fees from their criminal sentences before being able to vote.
Now with this Fines and Fees fund the coalition has raised, Mckenzie says he meets people all the time who are grateful to have a say in their government again.
“So many people lost hope, but since we started the Fines and Fees program, so many people right here in Orlando have benefited from it right?" he said. "I can’t even imagine how many times I go into a local grocery store and have on my shirt, and somebody walks up to me and shows their voter registration card, and say it was something that we did."
The group has raised around $25,000,000, which, they say, can help about 25,000 felons pay off their fines and vote again, since on average it costs about a thousand dollars to cover a felon's fines.
But that’s not nearly enough to cover the around 750,000 Floridians who won’t be voting in next month’s presidential election.
But Deputy Director of the Coalition, Neil Volz, says they'll never stop.
“Our mission is bigger than one deadline, its bigger than one election, this has been going on for years and we will continue for years to come,” Volz said.
McKenzie urges other felons not to give up.
And he says those who have that right back need to make sure to use it to the fullest.
“We want to pay attention and we want to see the change locally, we have to show up to these elections and vote and not just in a presidential election,” McKenzie said.