Yesterday U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that a state law, requiring felons to pay legal fees as part of their sentences before they can vote, is unconstitutional. The 12-page ruling, which involves a Florida state law that voters passed to automatically restore the right to vote for many felons who finished their time, determined that the Florida legislature could not require that all fines and legal fees had to be paid in addition to serving the prison sentence before felons could vote because many felons are unable to pay, or unable to find out how much they owe, a federal judge ruled Sunday.
This case is very important as Florida has thousands of felons who are now barred from voting because they can not pay the bills until they save up the money when they get jobs after release. Many of the felons are African American. It is expected by the Judge that Republican Governor Ron DeSantis will launch an appeal.
The Judge said election officials must allow felons to request an advisory opinion on how much they owe. If there’s no response within three weeks, then the applicant should not be barred from registering to vote, the ruling said.
He said that requiring felons who are able to pay fines and restitution, as ordered in a sentence, is constitutional for those “who are able to pay” — if the amount can be determined.