In the past few years, Floridians have seen major changes in the way our state handles felons’ rights. The process has not been easy.
In 2018, new legislation passed that gave ex-felons their voting rights back—with a caveat. The law required individuals to serve their sentences in full, complete any necessary probation and to pay back their fines in full. Many have seen these additional restrictions, particularly those involving court fines, as a subtle move toward disenfranchisement.
Why voting rights advocates are challenging Florida’s new law
A group of 17 felons have brought suit against the requirement that felons pay court fines in full, alleging that the regulation serves as a poll tax that excludes those in poverty and disproportionately affect persons of color. According to some estimates, the over 1.5 million felons whose voting rights are currently at-stake owe over $1 billion in court fines.
As of Tuesday, the court seems to agree. The U.S. District Court judge reviewing the case has stated that he will be issuing an injunction against the new additional regulations, particularly those around court fees.
What this means for thousands of convicted felons in Florida
This new injunction may be an opportunity to reinstate voting rights for over a million Floridians. However, the legal battle is not over. Florida still has an opportunity to appeal this decision to a higher court. Though there is currently no word on whether the state is considering an appeal, the option could leave millions of people uncertain of their rights.
Many who will have their rights reinstated under the injunction may be hesitant to act. Fraudulent voting charges have heft fines and could send some back to prison. Many convicted felons may see this as too risky. The future is still uncertain.