There’s an organization in Florida that is committed to helping formerly incarcerated people restore their right to vote in time for the 2020 general election. Now, MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central joined the efforts of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition by donating $250,000 to help their efforts to increase voter access by helping this community pay off fines and fees that keep them from voting.
Announcement of the donation was made public on National Black Voter Day, where BET, the National Urban League and a number of other partnering organizations pulled joined forces to address the issues that Black Americans face while voting.
“The fees and fines that returning citizens are being forced to pay to cast a ballot are a modern-day poll tax that is being used to keep marginalized people from voting -- and it disproportionately affects Black voters. We are pleased to partner with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to do our part to ensure every American who wants to cast a ballot this election can do so,” said Brianna Cayo Cotter, Senior Vice President of Social Impact for ViacomCBS. “We are committed to using our platforms and our reach to advance equity for people of color who are too often left out of the system and we urge other companies to join us in this campaign for voting access and racial justice.”
In 2018, Amendment 4 was passed in Florida restoring the voting rights of formerly incarcerated citizens, but in doing so, the legislature approved a law requiring these individuals to pay off fees and fines ranging from $200 to $2,000 before they can register to vote. Since one-third of the 1.4 million formerly incarcerated citizens in Florida are Black, according to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, it’s proven that these financial barriers disproportionately impact people of color.
“No American citizen should be forced to choose between putting food on their table or voting. No one should be silenced because they are poor,” said Desmond Meade, FRRC’s Executive Director. “While we are just two weeks away from Florida’s voter registration deadline, donations like this strengthens our resolve to continue fighting to free the vote in Florida.”
The FRRC has already raised millions to help pay the fees and fines associated with returning this community’s right to vote. The result has led to nearly 4,000 Floridians regaining their right to vote. Poor people, who rejoin mainstream society, no longer have to feel as if they aren’t allowed to be a part of democracy.
The deadline to register to vote in Florida is Oct. 5.