Judge: Ruling at Upcoming Trial Will Apply to Hundreds of Thousands of Florida Voters Seeking Rights Restoration

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TALLAHASSEE, FL – A federal judge today confirmed that any decision he issues in Florida’s rights restoration case, Jones v. DeSantis, would apply to all Floridians who would otherwise be eligible for rights restoration, but for their ability to pay off their fines and fees.

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) represents three individual plaintiffs with past felony convictions in the case, which challenges a Florida law requiring payment of fines and fees as a condition for rights restoration. To ensure that any final ruling in the case would extend to otherwise eligible voters beyond the individual plaintiffs in the case, CLC brought the lawsuit as a class action, and filed a motion for class certification last fall. Judge Robert Hinkle granted the motion today. The case goes to trial on April 27.

“Today’s class certification makes clear that whatever the outcome of the trial, it will apply broadly to hundreds of thousands of voters seeking rights restoration in Florida,” said Danielle Lang, co-director of voting rights and redistricting at CLC. “Roughly 80% of Florida voters whose rights were restored by Amendment 4 have outstanding fines and fees associated with their sentencing. The Florida law conditioning rights restoration on payment of restitution, fines, and fees penalizes citizens who face financial hardship while only re-enfranchising those who can afford to pay. Inability to pay should never be a barrier to the ballot box, and the state must provide a uniform process that gives all Floridians with past felony convictions access to voting, without discriminating on the basis of wealth.”

Judge Hinkle temporarily blocked enforcement of the Florida fines and fees law, and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision.  Both the district court’s order and the 11th Circuit’s opinion make clear that it is Florida’s responsibility to make sure that state and county election officials comply with the constitutional principles articulated by both courts. The state, however, continues to insist that these rulings apply only to the individual Floridians who are participating in this lawsuit. Today’s ruling ensures that practice must come to an end.

CLC and our partners are currently planning to conduct the trial remotely.

Read the stories of our individual clients Diane Sherrill, Lee Hoffman and Bonnie Raysor.