USA Today features Florida Justice Center in article on voting rights for people with felony convictions
Legal aid organization focused on rights restoration provides commentary on state of voter reenfranchisement in Florida
Tallahassee, FL (February 24, 2023) –
The USA Today Network published an article yesterday in the Tallahassee Democrat and other affiliated news outlets entitled “As DeSantis and lawmakers make it easier to prosecute election crimes, advocates question their priorities” by Douglas Soule. This widely circulated investigative piece featured quotes and insight from Neil Volz of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Brad Ashwell of All Voting is Local, and Florida Justice Center‘s Director of Legal Services Alex Saiz, Esq.
Alex Saiz, director of legal services for the Florida Justice Center, said the current confusion
wasn’t a failure of planning, but a failure of desire by the state government.
“Right now there are 67 counties in the state of Florida with their own clerk’s offices and
their own systems and their own websites that can determine what this information is,” he
said. “There’s no one-stop shop for people to be able to get their criminal records and find
out how much they owe.”
That shouldn’t be the case with modern technology, he says.
“The person basically needs an attorney to figure this out,” Saiz said. Even then, it’s
complicated. “The best advice we can give our clients is to put them through a full
background check, preferably an FBI background check.”
He said it’s not uncommon for someone to forget they had a conviction in more than one
county – a decades-old conviction for which they have unknown outstanding legal fees. It can
get even more confusing when factoring in federal felonies or felonies committed in other
“This is a very complicated system that I would say less than 10% of lawyers really study and
work on and really understand, and if the clients get it wrong, they’re facing real criminal
consequences,” Saiz said.
Florida Justice Center strongly believes that the right to vote is a fundamental liberty that must be preserved. Florida Justice Center (FLJC) also believes that voter registration and voting rights organizations must be responsible and work within the confines of the current system to ensure that those who are registering and voting are doing so legally. While many of these groups are working to change the current system, until the laws are changed, FLJC’s responsibility remains keeping their clients from reentering the criminal justice system.
This is why FLJC leads the way in evaluating potential voters who have felony convictions for eligibility to register and vote under Florida law. Using a rigorous process that includes FBI and FDLE background checks, attorney reviews of each felony case, and requesting an advisory opinion from the Division of Elections, Florida Justice Center is the only nonprofit organization in Florida employing such thorough means to ensure people are not illegally registering to vote.
Learn more about Florida Justice Center’s Voting Rights initiative at: https://www.FLJC.org/services/voting-rights
ABOUT FLORIDA JUSTICE CENTER
Florida Justice Center is the state’s only legal aid organization dedicated to helping people with justice-involvement. Authorized by the Florida Supreme Court, FLJC works to lower the effects of an arrest through free and low-cost legal services, as well as connections to community service providers.
With a mission to empower individuals by providing legal support, community education, and removing barriers to success caused by the criminal justice system, FLJC succeeds in helping thousands of individuals each year.