Felon voting appeal fails
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.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday turned down the Republican governor’s request for a full court review of a decision by a three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based court. The case involves a challenge to a 2019 Florida law that made felons’ voting eligibility contingent upon payment of court-ordered fees, fines and restitution.
The panel on Feb. 19 upheld a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle that the state cannot bar felons from voting if they are “genuinely unable” to pay the obligations.
Tuesday’s decision intensifies pressure for DeSantis’ administration to come up with a system to determine whether Floridians who register to vote are felons who have outstanding financial obligations and provide the information to local supervisors of elections, who have the authority to remove people from the voting rolls.
Florida lacks a single database where the information can be found, according to county clerks of court, elections supervisors and others. And court databases have incomplete or contradictory information, while some records may no longer exist, according to court documents and testimony. Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction in October and ordered the state to come up with a process to determine whether felons are able to pay financial obligations.
“The long and short of it is that once a state provides an avenue to ending the punishment of disenfranchisement — as the voters of Florida plainly did — it must do so consonant with the principles of equal protection and it may not erect a wealth barrier absent a justification sufficient to overcome heightened scrutiny,” judges Lanier Anderson III, Stanley Marcus and Barbara Rothstein decided.https://enewspaper.sun-sentinel.com/html5/desktop/production/default.aspx?pubid=09c7c801-e32b-4036-b4e3-001ebe0a7176