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Thu Apr 25, 2019, 07:00 AM

Florida House Approves Requiring People To Repay Criminal Fines, Fees Before They Can Vote [View all]

Florida House Approves Requiring People To Repay Criminal Fines, Fees Before They Can Vote

Critics say the legislation amounts to a poll tax and violates a constitutional amendment that voters overwhelmingly approved in November to allow people with felonies to vote.


By Sam Levine


The Florida House approved a controversial measure Wednesday requiring people with felony convictions to pay all financial requirements of their sentence before they can vote again.

The legislation comes after Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in November to repeal the state’s lifetime voting ban for people with felony convictions. Now, people with felonies can vote once they have completed their sentence, including probation and parole. The constitutional amendment exempts people convicted of murder and felony sexual offenses from having their voting rights restored. Its passage was heralded as an enormous step forward for Florida and could affect up to 1.4 million people.

The groups that backed the amendment strongly opposed the measure the Florida House approved 71-45 along party lines Wednesday. Many people in the criminal justice system accumulate huge fines and fees, and requiring people to pay those sums before they can vote will effectively continue to disenfranchise people with felony convictions.

The state House bill would require people to repay any restitution, in addition to fines and fees ordered by a judge ― even if those obligations are converted to a civil lien. The bill does not require payment of fines and fees not imposed as part of a judge’s sentence in order to vote.

Supporters of November’s amendment that repealed felony voting prohibitions say it is acceptable to require people to pay restitution ordered by a judge or fines and fees that are part of a sentence. But they say the amendment does not allow the state to require fines and fees on top of that before they can vote. They also say that people whose legal financial obligations are converted to liens because they can’t pay them should be able to vote.

“Today’s partisan vote in the House represented a failure to live up to the bipartisan commitment Florida voters showed with the passage of Amendment 4,” Neil Volz, the political director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the main group that pushed for passage of the constitutional amendment, said in a statement.
Neil Volz, political director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, opposed the measure passed in the Florida House

Kara Gross, the legislative director of the ACLU of Florida, which strongly opposed the measure, said it was obvious the bill was contrary to what voters intended with the constitutional amendment.

“Disturbingly, this legislation will cause defacto lifetime disenfranchisement for large swaths of formerly incarcerated individuals who have completed their sentences — precisely the opposite of the entire purpose of Amendment 4,” Gross said in a statement. “This bill merely replaces one unjust system for another.”


Its a poll tax because its meant to keep a class of people from the polls. It doesn't require non felons to have paid up traffic tickets or other civil fines and fees like child support paid up to be able to vote.

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Reply Florida House Approves Requiring People To Repay Criminal Fines, Fees Before They Can Vote [View all]
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