Federal judge rules against Florida law requiring convicted felons to pay fines to vote

Thousands of convicted felons will be eligible to vote in Florida after a federal court ruled that a law that created wealth-based hurdles to voting is unconstitutional.

The law, SB 7066, required people with past convictions to pay all outstanding legal fees, costs, fines and restitution before regaining their right to vote.

The law undermined Floridians' 2018 passage of Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to more than a million people who completed the terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle found that conditioning voting on payment of legal financial obligations a person is unable to pay violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by discriminating on the basis of wealth.

He said that requiring the payment of costs and fees violates the 24th Amendment, which prohibits poll taxes and violates the National Voter Registration Act.

“This is a historic win for voting rights. Judge Hinkle told the state of Florida what the rest of America already knows. You can’t make wealth a prerequisite for voting. This ruling opens the way for hundreds of thousands of Floridians to exercise their fundamental right to vote this November, and our democracy will be stronger for their participation," said Sean Morales-Doyle, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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