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New law keeps felon voting records secret from the public

Posted at 4:50 PM, May 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-24 22:25:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Voting registration rolls are open to the public. But on Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law to keep felon voter registration records secret from the public.

Supporters say it protects felons' privacy.

"Our priority is the people who are impacted by policies related to Amendment 4. In terms of this specific change, our priority was protecting the privacy of Returning Citizens in Florida," Neil Volz, with Florida Rights Restoration Coalition told ABC Action News Investigator Kylie McGivern.

Florida Rights Restoration Coalition was the group behind the push for Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to former felons.

But State Senator Darryl Rouson, of St. Petersburg, called for more transparency.

"That disturbs me if we can't hold the system accountable. If we cannot find out who is actually being denied, based upon financial obligations. I will look into that before next session, to see if we can’t file something that gives us standards, data, and information upon – to know how the impact of our legislation is," said Rouson.

When asked about concerns surrounding a lack of data, Volz told ABC Action News, "Our focus is more on encouraging civic engagement by new voters, signaling out returning citizens in that process can get in the way of that goal."

For the last few months, state lawmakers were locked in debate before approving a bill that requires felons to pay off all court fines, fees and money owed to victims before registering to vote.

FULL CIRCLE: Should former felons be forced to pay old court debts before having voting rights restored?

The governor has until May 29 to sign or veto that bill. If he does nothing, it will automatically become law.