Florida restricts voting rights for felons who have fines and fees to pay. Florida’s case is part of a more widespread problem and controversy over the extent to which felons and convicts should be allowed to access their voting rights. Advocates for full access to the polls for felons argue that laws barring felons from the voting on grounds such as completion of fees and fines are not only undemocratic but may be working largely in favour of the GOP.
Voters decided in Florida that felons who have completed their sentences must have their voting rights restored. However, the GOP-controlled legislature of Florida added a hook, legislating that all fees and fines owed by felons must be paid to (effectively) complete sentences before accessing full voting rights. This led voting rights to immediately sue in federal court arguing that the decision by the legislature was tantamount to imposing a poll tax.
The fear has been whether the court will through the case out or consider it for judgement. Good news finally came when “Florida’s high court waded into the legal wrangling over the voting rights of felons, agreeing Thursday to examine whether the state can continue restricting voting privileges to felons who have unpaid fines and fees”. This decision by the court to judge the matter is welcome as felon voting restrictions must be allowed to have its day in court. On its part, Democracy Chronicles argues emphatically that felons should be allowed full access to the polls.
The only right that should be taken away from felons or convicts is their right to free movement. It appears really undemocratic to deprive them of other rights, especially the right to vote. Moreover, based on the electoral demographics, felon voting restrictions tend to favour the GOP more and if pursued in States like Florida would undermine the quality of the US electoral system.
Read more about this story from Miami CBS.