Florida Legislature Working to Water Down Amendment 4 and Distort the Will of Voters

demonstrators with signs
Photo by Florida Rights Restoration Coalition

In November 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly voted to restore voting rights to people with past felony convictions by passing Amendment 4 -  the Rights Restoration Amendment.  Now, the state legislature is working to undue the will of more than 60 percent of the voters who supported restoring voting rights to people with past convictions in Florida. 

Despite the mandate of popular support for Amendment 4, the Florida House of Representatives’ Criminal Justice Subcommittee thinks it knows best about who should be able to vote.

The committee recently moved a bill forward that would require people with past felony convictions seeking to register to vote to first pay any outstanding fees before they are able to restore their voting rights. CLC submitted a letter to all 117 members of the Florida House of Representatives, urging them to reject or make significant changes to this bill. 

The bill, HB 7089, would impose significant obstacles on people seeking to have their rights restored, including an over broad definition of what is required for “completion” of a sentence and requiring the repayment of significant financial obligations before a person is eligible to have their voting rights restored. 

Danielle Lang, co-director, voting rights and redistricting, CLC, and Thea Sebastian, policy counsel, Civil Rights Corps, explained why this is a rights violation in a piece for the New York Times, "Too Poor to Vote”: “Wealthy people can pay these fees and vote immediately, while poor people could spend the rest of their lives in a cycle of debt that denies them the ability to cast a ballot.”

If the Florida legislature continues to move this bill forward, it undermines the will of Florida voters, and robs those who cannot afford to pay fines and fees of their fundamental right to vote. It would be nothing more than a modern-day poll tax.