Merrit Kennedy, NPR, July 1, 2019
A group of voting rights advocates and felons has filed a lawsuit after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a law that could make it more difficult for felons to vote.
The new law requires felons to pay any outstanding court fines or fees before they can cast their ballots — a requirement that the American Civil Liberties Union describes as creating “two classes of returning citizens: a group wealthy enough to afford their voting rights and another group who cannot afford to vote.”
Last November, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that would restore voting rights to more than 1 million felons.
The amendment approved by voters said that “voting rights shall be restored upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation.” It excludes those who have been convicted of murder or felony sexual offense.
After signing the new bill into law on Friday, DeSantis said in an accompanying letter that it “confirms that the amendment does not apply to a felon who has failed to complete all the terms of his sentence.”
The lawsuit filed Friday accuses the election officials of being motivated by racial discrimination, because felons in Florida are disproportionately black.
Ten felons are part of this lawsuit, saying they will not be able to vote because of the new law. The felons owe different amounts of money, ranging from a few hundred dollars to tens of millions.
The new law also says that a court may convert financial obligations to community service, in which case a felon may vote after completing those hours.