Florida Republicans move to limit felon voting rights despite amendment

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the measure, which would place conditions on the re-enfranchisement of millions, a “poll tax.”

What We Know:

  • Florida legislators advanced a bill on Tuesday that is expected to limit the number of former felons who can vote, in part by requiring former felons to pay back all court fees and fines before they can register.

  • Critics say the measure hits lower-income Floridians hardest and is designed to defy the will of the voters, who passed a constitutional amendment last year restoring voting rights to some felons who have completed their sentences without any mention of fines and fees. 
  • In November, 65 percent of Floridians voted to approve an amendment to the state’s constitution, Amendment 4, that restored voting rights to certain former felons “after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.” Those who were convicted of “murder or sexual offenses” were not eligible for rights restoration.
  • On Tuesday, a Republican-controlled committee passed a measure that would require felons to pay back all court fees and fines — even if they are slowly paying those costs back in a court-approved payment plan, for instance — before they can register to vote.
  • Even if a court waives the repayment of fees for a former felon, the bill would require the victim or organization to whom the fees were owed must “consent” in order for that person to register, adding a particularly unusual barrier to the process, Ebenstein added.

    “I’ve never seen anything like that in my time practicing voting rights,” she said.

  • The measure also qualifies a slew of felonies with any kind of sexual component as a disqualifying “sexual offense.” That includes crimes like having an adult entertainment store too close to a school as well as certain prostitution crimes.

This story will be updated here.