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felon voting rights

man at courtroom podium takes oath
Stephanie Colombini / WUSF Public Media

A group of Hillsborough County residents who served time for felony convictions but can’t afford to pay outstanding fines and court fees had their voting rights restored on Tuesday.


A potential new battleground in the battle over voting rights in Florida has opened up. This time it revolves around a form that would bring clarity to who can and cannot vote in the state.

On Sunday, a federal judge struck down controversial parts of a Florida law that made it so people with felony convictions need to pay all fines, fees and restitution before registering to vote.

Governor Ron DeSantis says he will challenge a recent court ruling that clears the way for felons to vote before paying fines, fees, and restitution. The appeal will be sent to the 11th judicial circuit in Atlanta. But Brennan Center for Justice attorney Sean Morales-Doyle says he’s confident Sunday’s ruling is firm and won’t change under another court.

prisoner in handcuffs
iStock

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle gave the state months to come up with a way to carry out a constitutional amendment, approved by more than 64 percent of Florida voters in 2018, that restored voting rights to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentences, including parole and probation.”

In a decision with potentially far-reaching implications for November's election, a federal judge in Florida has determined a state law that would have required felons to pay any outstanding court fees and fines before they can register to vote is unconstitutional.

The ruling on Sunday by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle moves hundreds of thousands of felons who have completed "all terms of their sentence including probation and parole" one step closer to winning back their right to vote.

 

 


Florida has entered the Phase 1 stage of reopening with restaurants operating at 25 percent capacity. Parks and beaches have also reopened, across much of the state. 

A much-watched voting rights case in Florida came to a close on Wednesday with the federal judge explicitly stating that he would rule against the state of Florida. The dramatic ending to the trial came after seven days of testimony from elected officials, state employees, plaintiffs and voting rights advocates.

Q&A: Florida's Voting Rights Lawsuit Could Tilt 2020 Presidential Race

May 5, 2020
Jail cell
iStock

A federal civil rights trial wrapping up in Tallahassee may resolve the question of whether felons in Florida who have served their prison sentences – but can’t afford to pay court fines and fees – will be allowed to vote in the upcoming election.

Federal Judge Robert Hinkle has spent the last week doing double duty as judge and IT manager. While presiding over a major voting rights trial that is taking place remotely, he has at times had to instruct attorneys and witnesses to “hit the F5 button” or to “moot” themselves — an apparent continual slip up confusing the legal term with the technological action of muting audio.

But despite the intermittent tech issues and the court reporter asking speakers to slow down or repeat themselves, the unprecedented virtual trial has largely run smoothly.

Man in orange 'inmate' vest and hard hat holds a stop sign on the side of the road.
Jana Lumley / Adobe Stock

The federal trial over a 2018 Florida law requiring felons to pay off their fines and penalties is underway. Plaintiffs argued Tuesday about how difficult that can be.

"I say if you’re not poor coming in, you’re certainly poor going out," said Carey Haughwout, a public defender for Palm Beach County.

Felon Voting Rights Trial Opens In Florida To Eerily Empty Courtroom

Apr 28, 2020
ProCon.org

In one of the most significant federal trials in Florida – a voting rights case that may affect the outcome of the 2020 presidential election – the courtroom in Tallahassee on Monday was eerily empty.

A contentious federal civil rights trial is slated to begin Monday that will determine whether hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions will be able to vote this fall in the swing state of Florida.

On one side of the case is Florida, along with a slew of other states supporting it from the sidelines.

On the other, hundreds of thousands of people who have completed their sentences but currently can't vote because of one thing they lack: money.

A contentious civil rights trial is slated to start next Monday in federal court. On the one side sits the state of Florida and a slew of other states supporting it.

On the other, thousands of potential voters who are currently barred from participating in elections because of the one thing they lack: money.

TALLAHASSEE — Striking another blow against Gov. Ron DeSantis, a federal appeals court has refused to reconsider a ruling that felons who have served their time but are unable to pay “legal financial obligations” must be allowed to vote.

Felons voting rights
Daniel Rivero WLRN

Gov. Ron DeSantis asked an appeals court Friday to continue preventing felons from voting while the state appeals a federal judge’s finding that a law requiring indigent felons to pay “legal financial obligations” to be eligible to vote is unconstitutional.

Florida health officials say they can’t release information about how many people have been tested for COVID-19, the coronavirus, but have confirmed there have been no confirmed cases in the state. On this week's roundup we looked at what listeners need to know about the virus, and the flu this year along with the ongoing fight over Amendment 4.

Court: Florida Can't Implement Amendment 4, Bar Felons From Vote Over Fines, Fees

Feb 19, 2020
NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

A U.S. appeals court opinion unanimously upheld a Florida-based federal judge’s preliminary injunction ruling that the state cannot restrict ex-felons from voting based on financial ability to pay fines and fees.

Florida Courts Struggle To Collect Fines Owed By Ex-Felons

Feb 11, 2020

After serving two stints in Florida prison in the 1990s for felony theft and cocaine possession, Ryan Cherry returned home to his family in Orlando to start his own air conditioning business.

DeSantis' Lawyers Face Tough Amendment 4 Questions From Appeals Court Judges

Jan 29, 2020
COURTESY: FLORIDA CHANNEL

U.S. appeals court judges challenged lawyers for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis with tough questions Tuesday about limiting the voting rights of felons who have not yet paid their criminal court fines.

Weeks Before Registration Deadline, Amendment 4 Is Still A Mess In Florida

Jan 27, 2020

Lee Hoffman lost his right to vote back in 1978.

He got it back when Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 restoring the voting rights to nearly 1.4 million ex-felons.

Fees, Fines For Ex-Felons; Legal Recreational Marijuana

Jan 17, 2020

On Friday's Roundup, we discussed the Florida Supreme Court ruling that former felons have to first finish paying any fines and fees they still owe before they can vote. Also, voters will not get to decide the fate of recreational marijuana, but state lawmakers might.

On an afternoon in November, 17 people from across Miami-Dade County gathered in a Miami courtroom to have their voting rights restored. The hearing would be an early indication that party politics are playing a role in how a controversial state law is being rolled out.

State and federal courts are expected in 2020 to grapple with high-profile Florida issues, ranging from felons’ voting rights to medical marijuana.

Here are snapshots of five key legal issues to watch in the new year:

Democrats Criticize GOP On Amendment 4

Dec 15, 2019
tweet from Nikki Fried
twitter

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s top elected Democrat, and a handful of Democratic presidential candidates spent time Friday on Twitter slamming Gov. Ron DeSantis over the way the state is carrying out last year’s Amendment 4.

Ocala dramatically blocked its newly elected councilman from taking office Tuesday night over a 33-year-old felony cocaine conviction. The case is believed to be the first time a Florida politician has been disqualified after an election because of serious crimes.

A federal judge on Tuesday excoriated lawyers representing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, accusing the state of trying to "run out the clock" to keep felons from voting in next year's elections.

John Legend Lends Support As Florida Felons Get Voting Rights

Nov 10, 2019
People casting their votes at polling booths
WUSF Staff

Singer John Legend was on hand to lend support Friday as 18 former felons were granted the right to vote in what Miami officials called a simple and streamlined process.

Cheers erupted in a Miami-Dade County courtroom on Friday, as more than a dozen people with felony convictions had their right to vote restored by a judge.

The mass court hearing was part of a brand new process created by the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida, along with Miami-Dade’s offices of the State Attorney, the Public Defender, and the Clerk of Courts.

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Fresh Take Florida

The Florida Supreme Court began considering Wednesday whether a voter-approved constitutional amendment restoring the voting rights of felons who complete their sentences means they also have to pay court-ordered fines, fees and restitution.

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee has sent a memo to county elections supervisors with direction about complying with a federal judge’s ruling on felons’ voting rights --- but questions remain about how the state will move forward. 

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