Florida Supreme Court Advisory Opinion Has No Impact on Federal Voting Rights Case Over Fines and Fees
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Today, the Florida Supreme Court issued a non-binding advisory opinion stating that the phrase “all terms of sentence” in Amendment 4 encompasses financial obligations, such as fines, fees and restitution as a requirement for the restoration of voting rights for otherwise eligible citizens with felony convictions. The Florida Supreme Court never answered the question of whether Amendment 4 requires payment from those unable to pay as a condition for voting rights restoration.
Danielle Lang, co-director of voting rights and redistricting, released the following statement:
“The decision today by the Florida Supreme Court changes nothing in the ongoing federal lawsuit. We will continue to fight to ensure that people with felony convictions are not denied the right to vote based on their inability to pay. Disenfranchising people because of financial hardship violates the U.S. Constitution and the Florida Supreme Court’s decision does nothing to change that. We look forward to making the case to Governor Ron DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee when we see them in court on January 28.”
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.
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.