Let me start out by stating I am neither a Republican or Democrat. I am an independent voter. However, I am very concerned about the efforts of the Republican Party to suppress the constitutional right of American citizens to vote. As an example lets look at our home state of Florida.

Amendment 4, a campaign sponsored by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition was passed in November 2018 by 64% of Florida voters approving restoration of voting rights to felons who completed all terms of their sentence, including parole and probation. The amendment does not apply to felons convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

But when the Republican-dominated Legislature made the law to implement the amendment, further requirements were added. In 2019, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill into law requiring “people with felony records pay all fines and fees associated with their sentence prior to the restoration of their voting rights.”

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has raised through donations over $16 million to pay the fines and fees for those felons unable to pay the fines and fees and only for those owing less than $1,500. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition estimates there are 32,000 citizens who are already registered voters and meet the criteria of owing less than $1,500.

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Republican Gov. DeSantis has asked Attorney General Ashley Moody to review if the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has violated the law by providing an incentive to vote. On Sept. 23, Moody asked state and federal law enforcement to investigate possible election law violations. The Republican Leglislature already ignored the overwhelming mandate by Florida voters to restore voting rights to felons who have completed terms of their sentence. Then they imposed additional monetary requirements to reclaim a citizens constitutional right to vote. Now they want to prevent these fees and fines from being paid!

Restoring a citizen’s constitutional right to vote does not guarantee the person will vote, and it certainly does not have any affect on a voter’s free choice to vote for candidates or issues they support. With over 64% of Floridians voting for Amendment 4, there are many Republican voters who support this issue. It is those Republican Party members with wealth and political power who are suppressing voters’ rights. Perhaps they need to refresh their memory with the final words of the Pledge of Allegiance, “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Kenny Piispanen

Citrus Springs