The man who ran on the Democratic ticket for Florida attorney general in last year says he is ready to help ex-felons register to vote–but he won’t call legislation to implement Amendment 4 a “poll tax.”
Former state Rep. Sean Shaw, the Democratic candidate for state attorney general who came up short against Republican Ashley Moody last year, is now running People Over Profits, a non-profit whose mission is to help get Floridians registered to vote after a felony conviction.
“We are going to make sure returning citizens know all of their options and have the support to find the best and fastest path to the ballot box,” Shaw said.
Shaw says the effort will come from having a tool box to help voters, including having a printed and web guide to explain exactly what ex-felons need to do in order to get registered after their sentence.
“What I wanted my organization to do is to be on the ground helping people to register under whatever legal framework exists at the time,” Shaw told Florida Daily, adding he understands that will vary greatly across the state.
“We are also going to be trying to make sure that we gather all the different methods in the various jurisdictions around the state so that people, no matter where they live, know what the process is in their specific area. The process can and probably will be different around the state. That is something we are going to be putting out there publicly,” Shaw said.
For example, Hillsborough County has mulled over setting up a “rocket docket” where ex-felons could potentially appear before a judge and quickly have their fines reduced or eliminated, immediately restoring their eligibility. People Over Profits believes this is the best option, but understands several counties, especially in the northern part of the state, will oppose using this option.
Ex-felons paying off their fines to vote has been a subject of great consternation within the Democratic Party, in particular former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. Shaw isn’t going as far as many in his party, saying he understood well the authors of Amendment 4 meant for the completion of a sentence to include those fees and fines. Still, he thought Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature could have done more on that front.
“I would have wished that the bill that was passed would have been a bill that would have allowed more people to vote and would have followed the spirit more than it did, but I am going to leave the legal maneuverings of that to other organizations,” Shaw said.
Multiple organizations are suing the state over SB 7066, the implementing legislation for Amendment 4. Those groups and Gillum have called that bill a “poll tax”
Shaw isn’t joining in with that pointed rhetoric.
“Poll tax is a strong term,” Shaw said. “That is a term that invokes some very specific racial overtones from the 60s and 70s and prior to that. That’s a little strong for me to characterize the law as that, but what I will say is that I don’t believe the law followed the spirit of what we as citizens were voting for when we passed Amendment 4.”
Instead, he will provide a cadre of lawyers across the state to help ex-felons who want to vote again get advice on how to do it free of charge.
Reach Mike Synan at firstname.lastname@example.org.