ORLANDO – The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) filed a major federal lawsuit alleging that Florida officials have failed to live up to their responsibilities to ensure election integrity in the state. After years of inaction by policymakers and government leaders, FRRC is initiating litigation for the first time as an organization.
In the complaint, FRRC and several Florida citizens allege that Florida election officials have created such a broken bureaucratic system around the implementation of Amendment 4 that it prevents Florida citizens from voting. Additionally, the group alleges that the state’s highly-publicized deployment of a statewide “election police” squad constitutes illegal intimidation under the Voting Rights Act.
FRRC and the intimidated voters are represented pro bono by Free and Fair Litigation Group, Arnold & Porter, and Weil Gotshal & Manges and the case was filed in Miami federal court.
“Ever since the people of Florida passed a constitutional amendment to grant people with felony convictions a new right to vote, the Governor and the state have done everything in their power to prevent those 1.4 million new voters from actually voting,” said Carey Dunne from the Free and Fair Litigation Group, a non-profit law firm countering rising authoritarianism in America.
FRRC led Amendment 4, the constitutional amendment campaign that restored voting rights for 1.4 million people with felony convictions in Florida in 2018. FRRC wants to ensure that those 1.4 million Floridians get to take advantage of that right.
“Florida’s failure to accept responsibility in determining voter eligibility hurts every Florida citizen,” said FRRC Executive Director Desmond Meade. “This is not a Black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian, or multi-racial issue or a Republican or Democrat issue; this is an everybody issue,” Meade continued. “If Floridians cannot rely on the State to determine voter eligibility, then who can we rely on?”
When Amendment 4 passed, it was estimated that more than 1.4 million Floridians — almost 7% of the state’s population — would have their voting rights restored, representing the largest mass enfranchisement of voters in the U.S. in decades. However, as alleged in the complaint, Florida election officials have failed to uphold their legal responsibilities by:
*Providing inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading information to potential voters who try to determine their voting eligibility.
*Creating a byzantine process in which voter eligibility is determined by varying local practices depending on where the potential voter lives.
*Since 2022, creating, publicizing, and deploying an “election police” unit designed to arrest people for having voted, including some people encouraged to register to vote and provided a voter ID by Florida election officials.
“The election police is a symptom of our broken system,” said Neil Volz, FRRC Deputy Director. “By getting the state to accept its legal responsibility to verify the voting eligibility of Florida voters, we can fix the problem at its root, rather than spend tax dollars arresting and investigating Florida citizens for voting or registering to vote.”
In the lawsuit, FRRC and the intimidated voters seek a declaration that Florida’s implementation of Amendment 4 is unconstitutional and illegal under the Voting Rights Act. FRRC is also asking for the creation of a statewide database for potential voters to determine their eligibility to vote and the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the state’s compliance, among other remedies.
“From the Governor on down, State of Florida and local officials at every level have failed to reintegrate returning citizens who have served their time back into our democracy,” said John A. Freedman, Arnold & Porter’s Senior Pro Bono Counsel. “We are proud to stand with our clients and our co-counsel in this important fight.”