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Federal judge blocks Florida law that keeps ex-felons from voting over unpaid fines
© WikiMedia (Tom Arthur)
Federal judge blocks Florida law that keeps ex-felons from voting over unpaid fines

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida issued a preliminary injunction on Friday against a state law that requires those convicted of a felony to pay all fees and fines before they can regain their right to vote.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis began experiencing pushback immediately when he signed the law in July.

The plaintiffs are 17 individuals represented by three organizations. The individuals have been convicted of felonies and have completed their terms of imprisonment and supervision. The only thing standing in the way of them qualifying to regain the right to vote under Florida’s “Amendment 4” is that they have not paid their court fees and fines. All but two of them have sworn that they are unable to pay their financial obligations. The remaining two have stated, but not sworn, that they are also unable to pay.

Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle granted the preliminary injunction, finding that the law most likely violates the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, which prohibits denial of voting “by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”

Hinkle noted that in granting the preliminary injunction, the possibility exists that someone who should not be allowed to vote will, undermining the election. However, he said that does not outweigh the irreparable harm the plaintiffs would experience in not being able to vote when they are allowed.

The case will go to trial on the merits next year, with some key issues set to be determined by the Florida Supreme Court.