The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is swinging through North Florida this week on a statewide bus tour. The group is running a high-profile fundraising effort to pay fines and fees for felons, so they can again vote in elections.
It was behind 2018’s Amendment 4, which cleared the way for many people with a felony to regain the right to vote after completing their sentence – but has faced significant legal challenges.
On its bus tour through Florida, the Coalition has already made stops in Pensacola and Panama City, and is visiting Gadsden County and Tallahassee Wednesday. Neil Volz, the group’s deputy director, said they’re coming through with a message.
“Now that the voter registration deadline has passed, we are squarely focused on communicating with the FRRC family of returning citizens in all the communities across the state, our families, our loved ones, about the importance of voting,” Volz told WFSU Tuesday.
As always, Volz says, the group’s effort to raise money toward paying fines and fees continues.
“Since 2019, when we started the fines and fees program, up to right now, we have raised and spent nearly $27 million to help returning citizens become eligible to vote,” he said.
Volz says the Coalition isn’t stopping that effort after the November election, he expects it to extend into the years ahead.
Volz himself has a felony in his past, and got his right to vote restored by Amendment 4. But just recently, Florida’s Clemency Board gave him back some more civil rights: He can now serve on a jury of his peers and run for public office.
“There’s tens of thousands of people in the state who have signed up and are facing a similar situation,” Volz said. “So, it was a real cool moment for me, I felt like I could see myself being restored with my community.”
Though, Volz said the Clemency Board meeting did have a “bittersweet moment.” His friend and colleague Desmond Meade, who heads the Coalition, had his application for rights reinstatement tabled by the Florida Cabinet.