Amendment 4

Court: Florida Can't Bar Felons From Vote Over Fines, Fees

Feb 19, 2020
DANIEL RIVERO / WLRN

TALLAHASSEE — Florida cannot, for now, bar felons who served their time from registering to vote simply because they have failed to pay all fines and fees stemming from their cases, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Tallahassee federal judge's preliminary injunction that a state law implementing Amendment 4 amounted to an unfair poll tax that would disenfranchise many of the released felons.

Scott Keeler / Associated Press

The Florida Supreme Court has sided with Governor Ron DeSantis and the Republican-dominated state legislature on a question that could impact the voting rights of an estimated 800,000 Floridians with felony convictions.

A series of polls from the St. Leo University Polling Institute shows Floridians deeply divided on some of the major issues that the state will face in the upcoming year. A slight majority of those polled favor giving felons who can't pay their fees the right to vote.

It wasn’t the most important issue or event of 2019.

A federal judge on Tuesday excoriated lawyers representing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, accusing the state of trying to "run out the clock" to keep felons from voting in next year's elections.

Daniel Rivero / WLRN

Cheers erupted in a Miami-Dade County courtroom on Friday, as more than a dozen people with felony convictions had their right to vote restored by a judge.

The mass court hearing was part of a brand new process created by the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida, along with Miami-Dade’s offices of the State Attorney, the Public Defender, and the Clerk of Courts.

Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments for a nationally watched question about how the state’s 2018 ballot item Amendment 4, relating to the restoration of voting rights for people convicted of felonies, is being implemented.

Daniel Rivero / WLRN

On Monday, a major hearing is set to take place in Tallahassee that will set the tone of a challenge to a Florida law that opponents have called a “poll tax.”

Daniel Rivero / WLRN

Newly filed court records are shedding light on the closely watched federal court case relating to voting rights for people with felony convictions. Several groups filed lawsuits against state and local officials after Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law tying the right to vote to paying all the fines and fees related to a felony conviction.

Judge Raises New Question In Felons Voting Fight

Aug 15, 2019

A federal judge added a new twist Thursday in the legal battle over whether convicted felons who’ve served their time behind bars should be required to pay court-ordered financial obligations before voting rights are restored.

Plaintiffs in the case are challenging a state law that carries out a constitutional amendment granting voting rights to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.” The amendment, approved by voters in November, excluded people “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.”

The American Civil Liberties Union in Jacksonville Thursday led a discussion on its priorities heading into the next Florida legislative session, which are:  criminal justice, immigrant rights and voting rights. 

C.M. GUERRERO / Miami Herald

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office -- the largest prosecutor’s office in the state of Florida -- is moving forward with a plan that would soften the financial blow of state law SB 7066 that ties the restoration of voting rights to someone’s ability to pay fines, fees and restitution for a felony offense.

Thousands of felons throughout the state are now eligible to vote, thanks to Amendment 4 and Governor Ron DeSantis signing the implementing bill into law. However, to do so they will have to register first, and organizations and advocates have been fanning out across Florida to sign up these newly eligible voters. Joining those efforts is former Leon County Commissioner Bob Rackleff.

A war of words has broken out over the Amendment 4 bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which requires former felons to pay off all fines and fees included as part of their sentence before their right to vote is restored.

Democrats and other bill opponents have said the requirement is “poll tax” and have launched federal lawsuits against it, while Republicans and bill supporters say fines and restitution was always considered part of a sentence.

Courtesy of Julie Peyton

More than 100 new laws go into effect this week in Florida, including the right to restore voting rights to felons and the banning of sanctuary cities. Sundial spoke with WLRN reporters Nadege Green and Tim Padgett to review some of the critical laws being enacted in Florida.

 

 

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