Felon voting rights fight flares up again

by | Jul 26, 2023

  • A voting rights group has filed a lawsuit alleging improper state implementation of Amendment 4, which was approved in 2018 to restore voting rights to certain felons.
  • The lawsuit alleges that the state’s implementation of the amendment are unconstitutional and violate the Voting Rights Act, creating an inconsistent and confusing voter eligibility process for felons.
  • The lawsuit demands the creation of a database for ex-felons to check voting eligibility and the appointment of a monitor to oversee state compliance with court-ordered remedies.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has filed a lawsuit alleging that the state’s handling of the 2018 voter-approved Amendment 4 is preventing and intimidating eligible voters. The amendment, designed to restore voting rights to people with completed felony convictions, excluding those of murder or felony sexual offenses, is being improperly implemented, according to the coalition. The defendants named include Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials.

The Coalition argued that the state’s implementation is unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act. The state’s implementation of Amendment 4 is hindering eligible voters, offering inaccurate or misleading information to potential voters, and causing voter intimidation with an ‘election police’ unit, according to the coalition’s claims. These issues have created a complex and inconsistent process for determining voter eligibility, varying by the potential voter’s location.

Amendment 4 was meant to be self-executing, without need for additional legislation, as it sought to rectify Florida’s status as one of the only three states to permanently disenfranchise individuals with felony convictions. The amendment received approval with a 64.55% majority. However, Gov. DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7066 in 2019, requiring felons to pay all restitution, fines, fees, or costs resulting from their conviction before voting rights could be restored.

Senate Bill 7066 has been met with legal opposition, as critics argue that requiring payment of fines and fees before restoring voting rights is unconstitutional. In 2020, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the bill, stating that the plaintiffs failed to prove a violation of their constitutional rights.

The coalition asserts that despite the implementation of Amendment 4, the state has been negligent in restoring voting rights. The amendment’s passage was expected to enfranchise over 1.4 million Floridians, representing the largest voter enfranchisement in the U.S. in recent years. However, according to the lawsuit, Florida election officials have not fulfilled their legal obligations in this regard.

The lawsuit calls for the court to rectify the alleged violations and mandate the creation of a database for former felons to verify their voting eligibility. It also asks for the appointment of a monitor to ensure the state’s compliance with court-ordered remedies. The coalition’s ultimate goal is to see the intended benefits of Amendment 4 come to fruition, opening up voting access to eligible individuals previously disenfranchised due to felony convictions.


%d bloggers like this: