CLC Files Suit Urging Court to Strike Down Florida Poll Tax

Date
Issues

Plaintiff Bonnie Raysor says: “I won’t be able to vote for 12 more years, unless I win the lottery”

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of two individual Floridians and many others like them against Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee for denying them their constitutional right to vote by requiring them to pay fines and fees ordered by the court before casting a ballot again.

SB 7066, signed yesterday by Florida Governor Ron Desantis, discriminates on the basis of wealth, in violation of the 14th Amendment, and constitutes a modern-day poll tax, in violation of the 24th Amendment. SB 7066 is unconstitutionally vague and denies voter procedural due process by making it impossible for potential voters to know whether they are eligible. It was passed in response to Amendment 4, which restored voting rights automatically to citizens that have completed their sentence. In his signing statement, Governor DeSantis called Amendment 4 a “mistake.”

SB 7066 unconstitutionally prevents people like CLC’s plaintiff, Bonnie Raysor, of Boynton Beach, Fla., from voting solely based on their financial status. Raysor, for example, cannot vote because she will be paying off over $4,000 in court fees over the next twelve years out of her minimum wage earnings. Under Florida’s new law, Raysor will not be able to vote until 2031.

“Voters went to the ballot box in November and voted, overwhelmingly, for second chances for the 1.4 million Florida citizens with past convictions,” said Danielle Lang, co-director, voting rights and redistricting at CLC. “SB 7066 undercuts that promise and will permanently disenfranchise many minor offenders. Florida Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have shamefully turned their backs on both current and future voters.”

“Restricting one’s ability to vote based on the size of their bank account creates two separate classes of citizens, and perpetuates an ugly form of inequality,” said Mark Gaber, director, trial litigation at CLC. “The act of voting integrates people into their community after their release from incarceration. That’s something we should all want, and undoubtedly that is why Floridians voted for rights restoration. But even if the legislature and Governor DeSantis disagree, the Constitution does not permit them to withhold the right to vote from someone because they are poor.”

“This is personal,” said plaintiff Bonnie Raysor. “For me, it’s a poll tax plain and simple. I served my time and am working to pay off my fees, and I don’t think that should prevent me from voting. Now I won’t be able to vote for 12 more years, unless I win the lottery.”

After completing her sentence, Raysor earned a college degree in Finance and Accounting at age 56. She now works a job as an office manager in Pompano Beach, Fla. and has taught Sunday school at her local church for 17 years. 

Read Bonnie’s story.