The number of Florida felons who registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election is roughly between 40,000 to 50,000, according to estimates from a group of researchers at Georgetown University Law Center.
Professor Neel Sukhatme told CBS12 News his team of data scientists, economists, and legal researchers compared data from the Florida Department of Corrections, Department of State and various counties to establish their estimate.
Sukhatme adds his estimate is likely an undercount because some data on outstanding felon fines and fees is difficult to attain.
Floridians overwhelmingly approved Amendment 4 in 2018, granting felons, often called “returning citizens,” the right to vote. The Republican-led state legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis later mandated that felons must pay fines and fees associated with their case before they can register to vote.
That decision was upheld by a federal appeals court.
“The state couldn’t even tell these folks how much they owe,” said Sukhatme, who started FreeOurVote.com to help felons establish how much they owe because there is no statewide database of fines and fees.
It is up to each individual felon to determine how much he or she owes in fees, fines, and restitution. Fines and fees are normally tracked by county clerks offices. In some clerk’s offices, older case files are on paper records and must be searched by hand to determine a felon’s fines and fees.
There is no statewide norm for how restitution is tracked.
“I think this is very complicated for a lot of folks,” Sukhatme said.
He also estimates as much as 70 percent of felons registered to vote have not fully paid off their fines and fees.
Florida law prohibits voting if you are aware that you are ineligible.
“If a voter knows that they have not completed the terms of their sentence, they absolutely should not vote,” said Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee in an interview with ProPublica, the Miami Herald, and Tampa Bay Times.
The three publications conducted a similar study to Georgetown’s and found similar numbers of registered felon voters.