Judge Rules Against Felons Paying Fines To Vote In Florida

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Nicholas Elias Contributor
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A judge denied a Florida law on Sunday that required felons to pay legal fees before they would be permitted to vote.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle issued a 125-page ruling on Sunday citing that the law was unconstitutional. Hinke said to the AP that he is unlikely to have the last word in the case and he expects Republican Governor Ron DeSantis to file an appeal.

The state of Florida has 774,000 felons who are prevented from voting due to financial obligations. (RELATED: Florida Governor Allows Sports To Return To Sunshine State)

In addition to requiring a fine to vote, determining exactly how much a felon owed the state was a process that could take years to complete. The ruling, according to the AP, stated that election officials must request an advisory opinion from the court system as to how much a felon owed the state. If the courts did not give an advisory within a three week period the applicant will be granted the right to vote. 

Hinkle said that it was constitutional to require felons to pay fines and restitution is constitutional as long as the person is able to pay. 

“This is a tremendous victory for voting rights,” Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project, said according to the AP. “The court recognized that conditioning a person’s right to vote on their ability to pay is unconstitutional. This ruling means hundreds of thousands of Floridians will be able to rejoin the electorate and participate in upcoming elections.”

Those convicted of murder or rape are permanently barred from voting regardless of financial obligations.