Senate Democrat proposes bill to study implementation of voter registration database to aid disenfranchised felons

by | Dec 13, 2023



  • Sen. Geraldine Thompson introduced Senate Bill 944 on Wednesday, aiming to commission the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) to study the feasibility of establishing an online voter registration database.
  • The database would primarily assist individuals disenfranchised due to felony convictions, enabling them to check their registration status and learn about any remaining legal or financial obligations for restoring their voting rights.
  • If Senate Bill 944 gains traction in the upcoming Legislative Session, OPPAGA is expected to present its findings by December 1, 2024. The bill, if passed, would be effective from July 1, 2024.

A Democrat lawmaker is looking towards the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) to explore the establishment of an online voter registration database.

Sen. Geraldine Thompson filed Senate Bill 944 on Wednesday, and if adopted, would probe various avenues to modernize the state’s voter database. The proposed legislation calls for an in-depth study, conducted by OPPAGA, into the development of an online voter registration database to assist individuals who have been disenfranchised from voting due to felony convictions.

Per the legislation, the database would be updated to allow convicted felons barred from voting to check their registration status and be informed of any outstanding legal or financial obligations that must be met before they can vote again.

“OPPAGA shall conduct a study to determine the most effective means of creating an online voter registration database that would allow a person who has been disqualified from voting based on a felony conviction to verify his or her voter registration status and determine whether he or she has any remaining obligations that must be satisfied before his or her voting rights are restored,” reads the bill.

Should the bill pick up momentum during the upcoming Legislative Session, OPPAGA is to present its findings by December 1, 2024.

The restoration of voting rights to felons in Florida has been marked by legal and legislative developments in the past two years. The passage of Amendment 4 in 2018, which was intended to restore voting rights to felons who had completed their sentences, excluding those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, marked a change to state law.

However, the implementation of the amendment faced a hurdle in 2019 with the introduction of Senate Bill 7066, a law stipulating that all fines, fees, and restitution related to convictions must be paid before felons could regain their voting rights. This requirement was met with widespread criticism, with opponents likening it to a modern-day poll tax and arguing it unfairly penalized those unable to pay.

This requirement culminated in a 2020 ruling by a federal judge who declared the payment requirement unconstitutional for those unable to pay. The decision was later overturned by an appeals court, which upheld the law.

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