We support voter re-enfranchisement and oppose restrictions attached to Amendment 4 by legislators
Florida Justice Center is against unfair new requirements to the Voter Restoration Amendment.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Fort Lauderdale, FL (March 05, 2020) —
The people of Florida overwhelming approved 2018 Amendment 4 by a margin of 2 to 1. Also called the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, this voter enacted law granted convicted felons the right to vote upon the completion of their sentence. Previously, reentered members of society had to wait at least seven years after the completion of their sentence to even apply for the restoration of their right to vote.
This amendment is especially important as, at the time of passing, 10% of all adult Floridians and 21.5% of all adult African American Floridians were disenfranchised felons. When the amendment went into effect in early 2019, nearly 1.4 million individuals suddenly became eligible to vote. Shortly after the passing of this constitutional amendment, Governor DeSantis signed a law that required those who are currently disenfranchised but have not paid all their fines and fees to do so before becoming eligible to vote.
“Denying someone their civil rights simply because of their inability to pay fines continues a long and sordid history of voter suppression and oppression of the poor in this country,” said Jonathan Bleiweiss, Executive Director of the Florida Justice Center. “The right to vote is an essential one that shouldn’t be tied to finances.”
This “Poll Tax” hearkened back to the days when African Americans were required to pay and pass a literacy test in order to vote as a way of excluding them from the political process.
On January 16, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court issued Advisory Opinion SC19-1341 in response to the request by Governor Ron DeSantis for clarification of terminology in Amendment 4. This opinion supported the position of the State of Florida that people with felony convictions should not be able to vote until all fines are paid.
While the Florida Supreme Court opinion is not legally binding, it has been admitted into the federal appeal regarding this matter. On February 19, 2020, the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of those trying to regain their right to vote but did not extend the decision beyond those specific plaintiffs. Governor DeSantis is appealing that ruling.
ABOUT FLORIDA JUSTICE CENTER
Florida Justice Center is the state’s only legal aid organization dedicated to helping people with justice-involvement. Authorized by the Florida Supreme Court, FLJC works to lower the effects of an arrest through free and low-cost legal services, as well as connections to community service providers.
With a mission to empower individuals by providing legal support, community education, and removing barriers to success caused by the criminal justice system, FLJC succeeds in helping thousands of individuals each year.