Appeals court: Florida can bar ex-felons from voting until they pay up

September 11, 2020 – A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Florida can bar ex-felons from voting if they owe court fines or fees associated with their convictions, even if they are unable to pay.

By Steve Patrick,Kent Justice, Mary Baer

Published in News4Jax

Friday’s ruling was the latest high-stakes challenges to a 2019 Florida law requiring felons to pay court-ordered “legal financial obligations” — fees, fines, costs and restitution — associated with their convictions to be eligible to vote. The law, approved by Republican legislators and signed by DeSantis last year, was aimed at implementing a 2018 constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to felons “upon completion of all terms of sentence, including parole or probation.”

Plaintiffs maintain that linking voting rights and finances amounts to an unconstitutional “poll tax,” while the Republican governor contends that the Florida law carries out the language of the constitutional amendment and the intent of its supporters.