Republicans Advance Bill In Florida That Endangers Felon Voting Rights Approved By Voters
A constitutional amendment introduced last November reinstated voting rights for felons convicted in Florida. Now, Republicans control the state’s Legislature and plan to vastly dilute the power of the amendment with new requirements that felons pay all fines and court costs before regaining their rights.
State Republicans passed the bill on Tuesday, and the president of the state Senate expects a companion measure to be drawn up by his chamber. Key Republicans maintain the amendment voters supported was vague, including Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Democrats, meanwhile, oppose the bill, drawing comparisons between it and Jim Crow-era poll taxes that prevented African Americans from voting. Neil Volz, the political director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, laments the move, saying, “Today we saw the politicization of Amendment 4. When partisan politics gets involved, the people lose.”
With more than one million Floridan citizens at risk of losing their voting rights, this could affect election outcomes in what’s a major battleground state. Floridans supported both Barack Obama and Donald Trump in the recent presidential elections, and races were so close during the 2018 midterms that recounts had to be held.
Gov. Charlie Crist, Florida’s governor from 2007 to 2011, gave more than 100,000 felons their voting rights back, but the law changed after Rick Scott was voted into the office. Less than 3,000 felons re-obtained their voting rights under Scott’s two-term tenure in office.
In November, over 64 percent of the state supported Amendment 4, which promised most felons would have their voting rights restored upon “completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation.” Those who were convicted of murder or sexual crimes are not included in the bill.
However, the House bill that Republicans are working on will re-define which crimes will render felons ineligible to vote. It will also require former prisoners to pay off any legal fees before their sentence is classified as finished.