ORLANDO, Fla. – A federal judge ruled over the weekend that the Florida law requiring felons to pay off their legal fees before their voting rights are restored is unconstitutional—for those who can’t afford it.
What You Need To Know
- Federal judge strikes down part of Florida law
- Law requires felons to pay fines before they are able to vote
- Judge ruled the law unconstitutional for those who can't afford to pay
The decision affects an estimated 774,000 felons.
Advocates say the will of those people won’t be overlooked any longer.
“We will have our voices heard and people will have to have conversations with us if they want to get in office and stay in office,” said Desmond Meade with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration will likely appear the federal court ruling. The judge said as much in his 125-page decision.
The ruling calls the law as it stands, “a pay-to-vote system.”
The judge took things a step further, ordering the state to require election officials to allow felons to request how much they owe. If there’s no response within three weeks, felons should not be barred from registering to vote.
In 2018, voters approved Amendment Four, returning voting rights to nonviolent felons who served their sentence. But the coinciding law from the Republican-led Legislature stipulated that all fines and legal fees must be paid, in addition to serving any prison time.