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Bus tours through Florida aiming to get felons to vote

Florida

FILE – In this Oct. 22, 2018 file photo, people gather around the Ben & Jerry’s “Yes on 4” truck as they learn about Amendment 4 and eat free ice cream at Charles Hadley Park in Miami. A federal judge has temporarily set aside a Florida law that barred some felons from voting because of their inability to pay fines and other legal debts. The ruling handed down Friday, Oct. 18, 2019 by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle means thousands of felons who were denied the right to vote will be able to cast ballots unless the state gets a higher court to intervene or if Hinkle later upholds the constitutionality of the state law. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Champions of a Florida constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to felons on Saturday launched a statewide bus tour to encourage them to vote.

Members of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition held a rally in Orlando and then started their tour by taking felons to an election supervisor’s office for early voting in local elections.

The bus then was traveling to a high school football game in Belle Glade where organizers were encouraging felons to vote. The tour through Florida lasts through most of November.

As many as 1.4 million felons are potentially eligible to regain voting privileges under a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters last fall. But the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year passed a bill stipulating that felons must pay all fines and fees to complete their sentences.

A federal judge last month temporarily blocked the new law. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said a felon’s inability to pay raises constitutional questions, noting that about 80% of the state’s felons have unpaid financial obligations imposed by courts during sentencing.

To help overcome the requirement, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has started a fund that will help pay the fines and fees.

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