A Florida judge struck down most of a state law that requires felons to pay all court fines and fees before they’re allowed to vote — paving the way for hundreds of thousands of state residents to potentially cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election.
In his ruling Sunday, US District Court Judge Robert Hinkle said stipulations to a 2018 state law — which reinstated the right to vote for many felons in the state — violated rights ensured by the 24th Amendment, which barred poll taxes.
The stipulations stated legal fees and fines, as well as any prison time, must be completed before a felon’s right to vote is restored.
The judge blasted the measure as a “pay to vote” system in his ruling Sunday, adding that it barred the right to vote to many Floridians “who are otherwise eligible to vote but are genuinely unable to pay the required amount.”
But he added the requirement is constitutional for those “who are able to pay” their fines.
The ruling, which will likely be appealed by Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, could pave the way for more than 770,000 state residents to register to vote ahead of November’s presidential election.
Felons convicted of crimes such as rape and murder are permanently banned from the polls under the 2018 ballot measure.
The ruling Sunday settled five lawsuits brought by advocates for disenfranchised felons, including the ACLU and the NAACP. In his ruling, Judge Hinkle did not find the law intentionally discriminated against the plaintiffs’ race, as they had argued in the suits.
“This is a tremendous victory for voting rights,” Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, told the Associated Press.
“The court recognized that conditioning a person’s right to vote on their ability to pay is unconstitutional. This ruling means hundreds of thousands of Floridians will be able to rejoin the electorate and participate in upcoming elections,” she added.
With Post Wires