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Group advocating for voting rights for ex-felons hosting rally in Fort Myers

Posted at 7:22 PM, Oct 14, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla — Voters will be marching to the polls in Fort Myers, and many of them will be casting their ballots for the first time.

A non-profit that advocates for people with past felony convictions is hosting a “Free The Vote” rally in 10 days.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition worked hard to get Amendment 4 passed in 2018, which gave people with past felony convictions the right to vote. The rally scheduled to take place in Dunbar Park will be a celebration of that victory, and we spoke with a man involved in organizing the rally who just cast his vote for the first time this year.

“As returning citizens, we fought so long and so hard to be able to participate in our community, and we wanted to celebrate that. We wanted to celebrate democracy," said Neil Volz, the Coalition's Deputy Director.

Volz said voting for the first time was about a lot more than just casting a ballot.

“This August, I was able to walk up to Life Church there on Plantation Road and cast my first ballot in 16 years, and it was an overwhelming experience. I felt like a full citizen of my community for the first time," said Volz.

Now Volz wants to help others feel like a full citizen too. He and members of the Coalition are traveling the state organizing rallies and marches to the polls, but he says they’re also helping people who have outstanding court costs.

“In Lee County, we helped tear down the barriers for hundreds of returning citizens by paying their fines and fees," said Volz.

Volz said he hopes those returning citizens join him on October 24th to celebrate a right he doesn’t take for granted any longer.

“In Fort Myers, we’ll be having a barbecue and an event, and gathering so many returning citizens and our family members," said Volz.

That rally will begin on October 24th at 10 a.m. in Dunbar Park, followed by a march to early voting locations.

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