Florida Appeals Court Rules State Can’t Bar Felons From Voting Over Fines and Fees

A Florida court ruled a law barring felons the right to vote until they pay all fines and fees related to their cases amounted to an unfair poll tax.

According to NBC News, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Tallahassee federal judge’s preliminary injunction Wednesday, calling a state law implementing Amendment 4, a poll tax that would disenfranchise many of the released felons.

In 2018, Florida overwhelmingly approved allowing felons who’ve served their time, the right to vote. However, the Republican-led legislature added a law stipulating felons had to first pay any fines and fees before being able to vote.

A voting rights group representing 17 felons sued the state over the law hoping to overturn it.

In its ruling, the court said the financial requirement “punishes those who cannot pay more harshly than those who can — and does so by continuing to deny them access to the ballot box.”

Although the ruling only applies to the plaintiffs, there are 1.6 million Florida felons who have completed their prison sentences and could regain their voting privileges under Amendment 4.

“This is a tremendous win for our clients and for our democracy,” Sean Morales-Doyle, a senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice told NBC News.

“We disagree with the ruling,” Helen Ferre, the chief spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis told NBC News. Ferre added the state would immediately ask the entire 11th Circuit to reconsider the ruling.

The three-judge panel said previous Supreme Court rulings required it to “apply heightened scrutiny in asking whether the requirement violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to these plaintiffs.”

The panel ruled the law does violate the 14th amendment and reinstated the injunction allowing felons to register to vote, regardless of their ability to pay fines, restitution, and other fees.

Both Republicans and Democrats are drafting and executing plans to win the 2020 Presidential Election. Republicans are coordinating a $20 million effort to prevent African Americans from voting and Michele Obama’s “When We All Vote” campaign is working to expand voting by mail.

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