Florida Gov. (R) signed a bill Friday to require felons to pay off restitution, court fees and fines before regaining the right to vote.
The bill, put forth by state Republicans, comes after Floridians voted in November to pass an amendment restoring voter registration rights to about 1.4 million ex-convicts in the state.
Former offenders who have completed “all terms of their sentence including parole or probation” had their voting rights automatically restored in January. The legislation does not apply to Floridians convicted of murder or sexual offenses, however.
But critics have argued the bill signed by DeSantis on Friday seeks to intentionally undermine the amendment, with many Democrats calling it a modern-day “poll tax” that will keep felons disenfranchised.
This is a poll tax. https://t.co/PV9b5yhIWp
— (@CoryBooker) April 24, 2019
The past isn’t past. After bringing back the poll tax, what next? https://t.co/CB9Q2io2b7
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) June 28, 2019
The 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed to eliminate the poll tax. Today, FL Gov Ron DeSantis defied the will of people & signed a law depriving thousands of formerly incarcerated persons from voting unless they pay restitution, fines & fees. THIS is why we need to #RestoreTheVOTE
— NAACP (@NAACP) June 28, 2019
Enough with the racist and unconstitutional efforts to deny people the right to vote. If you are an American citizen you must be able to vote. End of discussion. https://t.co/9yxsevVLMm
— (@BernieSanders) April 24, 2019
Advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union had already suggested they would sue if DeSantis signed the bill. While the bill signed Friday offers the opportunity for fines to be dismissed on a case-by-case basis, groups argue many felons will be unable to pay off their debt and lose their right to vote.
Prior to the amendment’s passage in November, Florida was one of only three states, along with Kentucky and Iowa, that permanently barred ex-convicts from registering to vote without first going through a lengthy clemency process.