The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Friday a Florida law that requires felons to pay all fines and court fees before they can vote.
A 6-4 ruling from the panel of 10 judges reverses a previous lower-court ruling that granted voting eligibility to Florida felons despite any remaining expenses, according to The Hill. (Related: Judge Rules Against Felons Paying Fines To Vote In Florida)
“Florida withholds the franchise from any felon, regardless of wealth, who has failed to complete any term of his criminal sentence—financial or otherwise,” the majority wrote.
— The Hill (@thehill) September 11, 2020
The case originated from an amendment to the Florida constitution passed by voters in 2018, which gave people with felony convictions the right to vote once they fulfilled “all terms” of their sentences, per the report.
“This is a deeply disappointing decision,” Paul Smith, vice president at Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement, reported by The Hill. “While the full rights restoration envisioned by Amendment 4 has become less likely to be realized this fall, we will continue this fight for all Florida voters, so the full benefits of Amendment 4 will someday be realized.”
The court argued that the fines and fees do not count as a poll tax, which critics have argued, according to Axios.
Judge Bill Pryor’s decision upholding Florida’s poll tax on ex-felons is one of the most dishonest, misleading, and despicable voting rights opinions I have ever read. It is shockingly bad—an affront of the very notion that Americans have a right to vote. https://t.co/5SuiXi7rk9
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) September 11, 2020
“Court costs and fees are legitimate parts of a criminal sentence—that is, part of the debt to society that felons must pay for their crimes—there is no basis to regard them as a tax,” the decision reads.
Florida’s voter registration deadline is Oct. 5.