Returning citizen in Tampa casts ballot for first time on National Vote Early Day

Local News

TAMPA (WFLA) – Ladron Porter couldn’t wait until Election Day.

“I’m a returning citizen,” Porter told News Channel 8’s Justin Schecker. “I just did five years incarcerated.”

On National Early Voting Day, the 32-year-old voted for the first time at the C. Blythe Andrews Library in Tampa.

“It’s amazing out here,” Porter said. “We had a march to the polls, voting celebration.”

Porter regained his right to vote through the passage of Amendment 4 two years ago and some help from the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

“That organization paid off my fines and fees so that I am able and eligible to vote,” he said.

Porter is one of more than 379,000 Hillsborough County voters who have already cast their ballots as of 6 p.m. Saturday evening.

A federal appeals court upheld the state law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019 that requires non-violent felons to pay off all court costs before they can register to vote.

Republican lawmakers argued that fulfills the wording of Amendment 4 on the ballot from 2018 that felons can vote after completing “all terms of sentence.”

Recently, the FRRC made a more than $1.5 million dollar donation from its Fines and Fees Program to help returning citizens in Hillsborough County.

“We don’t care who you vote for,” said Ernest Johnson from the Tampa FRRC chapter. “We are non-partisan. You can be Republican, Democrat, Independent.”

Amendment 4 aimed to enfranchise up to 1.4 million returning citizens in Florida. 8 On Your Side wanted to know how many registered for the 2020 Election.

“When we cross-referenced our information with the updated voter rolls we saw that there were 67,000 returning citizens who had registered to vote,” FRRC Deputy Director Neil Volz told Justin Schecker.

As Porter cast his ballot Saturday, he said he thought about his ancestors who suffered to have a say in America’s democracy.

“I’m very emotionally impacted to be part of history in the making and for another chapter to be brought to success,” Porter said.

Between now and Nov. 1, voters can drop off mail ballots at the 26 early voting sites in Hillsborough County, but they will not be accepted at the polls on Election Day.

Voters must cast their ballots at the assigned polling location in their precinct on Nov. 3.

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