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Amendment 4

A federal judge issued a ruling Friday temporarily blocking a Republican-backed Florida law that barred some felons from voting because of their inability to pay fines and other legal debts.

Amendment 4 restored voting rights to more than a million Florida residents with a felony conviction.

Calling the process “an administrative nightmare,” a federal judge on Tuesday urged the Florida Legislature to revamp a state law aimed at carrying out a constitutional amendment that restores voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.

A federal judge is considering whether Florida lawmakers exceeded their authority by requiring former felons to pay fines and settle other legal debts as a condition of regaining their right to vote.

On Monday, a major hearing is set to take place in Tallahassee that will set the tone of a challenge to a Florida law that opponents have called a “poll tax.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Flickr

Florida's Republican governor on Friday asked the state's high court to rule on whether convicted felons must pay all fines and fees before getting their voting rights restored in a move that competes with ongoing litigation in federal court on that same question.

Federal Judge Mark Walker has recused himself from a key elections lawsuit after a defendant on the case hired a law firm that employs Walker's wife.

The first lawsuit concerning a bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis requiring convicted felons to pay court fees and fines before they can register to vote has ties to the Tampa Bay area. 

Disability attorney Michael Steinberg of Tampa filed a lawsuit on behalf of Kelvin Jones, a disabled veteran and former prisoner, almost immediately after DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7066 into law June 28. It has already been combined with a number of other similar cases. 

A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Florida Secretary of State and ten county Supervisors of Elections across the peninsula, in what amounts to the first major legal challenge to a controversial bill that was passed by the Republican-dominated legislature to require former felons pay all fines and fees before being able to vote.

Floridians approved a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to most felons in November.  In May, Florida lawmakers passed a law requiring them to repay all financial penalties incurred at sentencing before they can register.

When Amendment 4 passed last November, many people thought it would give over a million people with felony convictions the right to vote in Florida. 

DeSantis To Sign Felons’ Voting Measure

May 8, 2019
Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he will sign a controversial measure that would require repayment of financial obligations before felons’ voting rights are restored. 

ProCon.org

Seeking to carry out a November constitutional amendment, the Florida Senate on Thursday passed a measure that would require repayment of financial obligations before felons’ voting rights could be restored, an issue that’s been a sticking point as lawmakers grappled with one of this year’s most controversial pieces of legislation. 

Two big criminal justice reform bills are moving through the Florida Legislature. Backers of the similar bills in both chambers are going through negotiations down the stretch to position a final measure for passage.

Florida Could Make It Harder To Change State Constitution

Apr 9, 2019

Amending the state constitution would require approval by a two-thirds majority of voters, up from the current 60 percent, under a proposed ballot question approved by a House committee Monday. 

Prison bars
Michael Coghlan/Wikimedia Commons

Legislation putting into law a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to some Florida felons has won approval by a state Senate committee. 

Florida’s legislative session has been underway for almost a month and there have already been some big changes.

We talk with reporters about key issues lawmakers are considering and how their actions could affect our lives on this week’s Florida Matters.


Lawmakers in the Senate today passed a bill that would implement Amendment 4, which allows certain felons to vote. But as Blaise Gainey reports proponents of the amendment say it’s self-enacting and the bill passed today isn’t needed and may not meet constitutional muster.

Felons in Florida would have to settle pending fines and fees before having their voting rights restored, according to a proposal currently making its way through the legislature. Critics say that flies directly in the face of Amendment 4, the constitutional amendment passed in November, and amounts to a modern day “poll tax.”

Public commenters gave lawmakers an earful today when the implementing bill for 2018’s Amendment 4 came up in a House committee meeting. The amendment allows certain felons to vote. But that raises the question which felons can’t vote?

Micah Kubic
ACLU

Micah Kubic has the deliberate, passionate cadence of a southern preacher.

“Our job today is to show the world, to tell them, rub your eyes. Don’t be adjusted to the deficiencies that we are seeing all over this country,” Kubic told a group gathered for an ACLU meeting at Stetson University in downtown Tampa on Saturday. “ In so many ways, we are adjusting to deficiencies and we can not let that happen in these very difficult, very challenging, very onerous times.”

Despite ongoing confusion about the roll out of a recent expansion of voting rights in Florida, county election offices across the state say people who rushed to register to vote when Amendment 4 went into effect in January have been issued voter information cards with no issues.

Meaning Of 'Murder' Key In Felons' Voting Rights

Jan 23, 2019

A key Senate panel on Tuesday began grappling with how to carry out a constitutional amendment that “automatically” restores the right to vote to felons who’ve completed their sentences.

At the outset of the meeting, Senate Criminal Justice Chairman Keith Perry vowed not to have “any kind of hindrance or roadblocks” in implementing Amendment 4, approved by nearly 65 percent of voters in November.

At the top of the to-do list for the committee: figure out the definition of “murder.”

Like many Floridians who have been convicted of a felony, Clarence Office, 61, was excited to register to vote on January 8, when the state’s Amendment 4 went into effect.

Nearly one and a half million felons who have served their sentence regain the right to vote in Florida on Tuesday. The voting rights are being restored as a new amendment to the state constitution goes into effect.

Mary Shedden/WUSF

More than a million people could soon be added to Florida's voting rolls.

In November, voters approved a constitutional amendment which automatically restored voting rights to felons, with the exception of those convicted of sex offenses and murder.

With Amendment 4 going into effect in less than a week, there are parts of the process of restoring the voting rights for convicted felons that appear to have not yet been considered, said incoming Democratic state Senator Jason Pizzo. He said it could potentially throw a wrench into the rights restoration process.

Court Battle Over Felons' Rights Could End

Dec 21, 2018

Though debate continues to swirl about carrying out a newly approved constitutional amendment, a fierce legal battle about how Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Cabinet members have handled restoration of felons’ rights could be close to ending.

When Will Amendment 4 Be Implemented?

Dec 16, 2018

More than one million felons in Florida are supposed to be able to register to vote in a little over three weeks. 

Amendment 4 —the ‘Voting Restoration Amendment’ — was approved by 65 percent of voters on Nov. 6, amending the state constitution to return the right to vote to most felons after they’ve served their sentences. It goes into effect January 8.

12/14/2018: Felon Voting Rights Next Steps

Dec 14, 2018

Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment restoring the voting rights of most felons, but with just weeks before it goes into effect, there’s no clarity on how it will be implemented.

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