CLC Urges 11th Circuit to Affirm Ruling in Florida Voting Case: ‘The Right to Vote Cannot Be Denied on Basis of Wealth’

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ATLANTA, GA – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a brief with the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit calling on the court to affirm an October 2019 district court ruling, which barred Florida from denying people with past convictions the right to vote based on their inability to pay outstanding fines, fees and restitution obligations.

The case is Jones v. DeSantis. The court has scheduled oral argument for January 28. Florida’s presidential primary registration deadline is fast approaching on February 18 and the presidential preference primary election is on March 17.

 Paul Smith, vice president of CLC and lawyer for the plaintiffs, released the following statement:

“The lower court has already recognized that Florida can’t deny our clients the right to vote based on lack of wealth. Now the appeals court must affirm this ruling and send a clear message to the state that wealth based discrimination in voting is unjust. Hundreds of thousands of peoples’ rights hang in the balance.”

The lower court ruling restored voting rights to the 17 plaintiffs in the case, but the case continues. It will determine whether those individuals and hundreds of thousands of others in the same position will be able to vote in the 2020 election. CLC is representing three clients who would otherwise be denied the right to vote under Florida’s law because they are unable to pay off their fines and fees: Bonnie Raysor of Boynton Beach, Diane Sherrill of St. Petersburg and Lee Hoffman of Plant City. CLC filed a class-action lawsuit, and is also seeking relief for all Floridians who are denied the right to vote based on inability to pay.

One year ago Wednesday, Amendment 4 was implemented in Florida, a transformative legal change that elevated a class of citizens with felony convictions and promised to restore voting rights to approximately 1.5 million people through a new provision in the state constitution. Florida voters supported the ballot initiative restoring the right to vote to individuals with past felony convictions, passing it by a nearly two-to-one margin in November 2018.