The sky is not falling, but criminals will vote in 2020

Wayne E. Fusco MFCEP, Assistant St Johns County Supervisor of Elections, wants to be sure that any Historic City News readers who might not understand how the adoption of Florida’s Constitutional Amendment #4 will affect the operation of the local supervisor’s office, realize that it won’t.

In response to a shotgun-email that was sent to several disinterested officials and others who had not asked any questions, Fusco wrote, “The job of the Supervisor of Elections office is to accept voter registration applications and enter them into the statewide voter registration system.  That does not change January 8th.

In the e-mail, apparently in a state of excited delirium that a Florida criminal will stand at the Supervisor of Elections office on Tuesday and be denied their right to vote, the writer urges, “Please send any memorandum of understanding, or proposed memorandum of understanding, between the Supervisor of Elections, the Clerk of Courts, or others regarding verification of convicted felons who are eligible to have their voting rights restored by virtue of having completed their sentences, probation, fines and paid their court costs, including any procedure for waiver, forgiveness, cancellation that exist or are being considered.”

I think it’s clear that 2019 is not an election year, in fact, the next election won’t be decided until November of 2020.  It should also be clear, if it wasn’t already, that the State of Florida performs all criminal records checks on voter applicants.  Checking the Clerk of Court only tells you about cases heard locally.  Convicted felons are sent to state prisons, not local jails, and a prospective ex-offender could have been sentenced anywhere in the state.

Historic City News editor Michael Gold spoke to Supervisor Vicky Oakes this morning, who confirmed immediately that no one in her office “would know whether an applicant had been convicted of an exclusionary crime, let alone whether they had completed the conditions of their sentence.”  We were told that the Division of Elections, under the Secretary of State, has access to the resources of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, statewide criminal histories, and records from the state’s judicial administration.

“We will accept voter registrations if a voter comes into our office, completes a voter registration application, marks the correct responses, then signs the application,” Fusco wrote.  “The process is the same when a person chooses to register to vote online at”

Just because someone applies to vote does not mean that they are automatically allowed to vote — that happens after the applicant’s eligibility to vote has been verified.  Fusco reiterated Oakes’ explanation that such verification takes place at the state level.  “No MOU exists between the Supervisor of Elections and the Clerk of Courts, as they are not involved in the process of determining the eligibility of voters added to the Florida Voter Registration System.”

Simply put, the Amendment provides a way for the voting rights of convicted felons to be restored upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation; so long as no person convicted of murder, or, a felony sexual offense, shall be qualified to vote until the restoration of their civil rights is complete.