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FORCING FELONS TO REPAY FINES BEFORE REGISTERING TO VOTE DEEMED UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Forcing Felons to Repay Fines Before Registering to Vote Deemed Unconstitutional

Judge Robert Hinkle overturns Florida government’s subversion of voter-led Amendment 4.

Tallahassee, FL (May 24, 2020) –

Those convicted of felonies have their freedoms limited in numerous ways, even after release. Not the least of which includes barriers to their ability to vote. 

In November of 2018, Amendment 4, a groundbreaking voter-led measure passed in Florida, gave felony convicts who had completed their term of incarceration and probation the right to vote.

The state legislature, however, was quick to respond with a series of preventive measures, including a financial quota: all fines and fees must be paid before convicted felons can place a vote in the ballot box, or even register. According to an article by The New York Timesthis measure would require the settlement of tens of thousands of dollars in financial obligations to the courts, “effectively pricing some people out of the ballot box.”  With an overwhelming majority of the prison population coming from low-income economic status, this quickly became a huge obstruction to these potential voters. 

Luckily, the federal judiciary had something to say about this outrage. Reported today in a Reuters article, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the Florida Legislature’s actions in creating a poll tax was unconstitutional.  He explained how the government had essentially created a “pay-to-vote system.”  

“Taxation without representation led a group of patriots to throw lots of tea into a harbor when there were barely united colonies, let alone a United States,” Judge Hinkle wrote. “Before Amendment 4, no state disenfranchised as large a portion of the electorate as Florida.“

This ruling will permit hundreds-of-thousands of disenfranchised citizens to vote and let their opinions once again be heard in our nation’s electoral process.

This is justice.

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