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From Behind Bars to Ballot Boxes

July 7th, 2008 by flanews

Thousands of Floridians maybe eligible to vote in November and dont know it. Ex-felons whove had their civil rights restored can register to vote but as Whitney Ray tells us, many of them dont know it.

Hear it Here: From Behind Bars to Ballot Boxes

Its possible more ex-felons will cast ballots in this presidential election than in any other election in state history. Thousands of ex-felons are eligible to vote but they dont know it.

The governor signed an order last year to automatically restore the right for some nonviolent offenders.

Since then more than a hundred thousand ex-felons have had their civil rights restored but many of them havent been notified. Jane Tillman, a spokeswoman for the Florida Parole Commission, says the commission is trying to break the good news to former felons but sometimes they have old contact information and funds are tight.

We dont have any money. So were trying to be as creative with less money and still get the message out there, said Tillman.

The commission is reaching out to ex-felons through conferences and public service posters. Reggie Mitchell works with the People for the American Way Foundation. The foundation is devoted to helping former offenders get back on their feet.

If you get people back into the pipeline, if you get them registered to vote, youre recidivism rate drops tremendously, so theyre less likely to victimize other people, said Mitchell.

Both political parties would like to see the newly registered cast ballots for their candidate.

Democracy doesnt categorize voters, if youre eligible to vote and participate, were going to be out there reaching out to you and spreading the message, said Jim Greer with the Republican Party of Florida.

Written reports suggest presidential hopeful Barack Obama would benefit most from the states ex-felon vote. People for the American Way Foundation has set up a database for ex-felons to check and see if theyve had their rights restored. The database is at www.restoremyvote.org

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