U.S. appeals court rules Florida ex-felons must pay fines to vote

Miami residents check in at the registration desk and cast their ballot in the primary election August 18. On Friday, an appeals court said Florida ex-felons must pay all fines before registering to vote. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI

Sept. 12 (UPI) — A federal appeals court on Friday ruled in favor of a law requiring Floridians convicted of felonies to pay court fines and fees before being allowed to vote.

The ruling overturned a lower court’s decision to issue a permanent injunction against the controversial law. Friday’s decision means hundreds of thousands of Floridians won’t be able to register to vote until they pay fines.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis, who said the fines and fees those convicted of major crimes are expected to pay are part of their sentences.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the Florida law puts up a “monetary barrier” at the ballot box and disproportionately affects Black Floridians.

“This decision sanctions Florida’s ability to require a long-prohibited poll tax to vote and prolongs confusion for people who may owe monetary amounts that are unknown or difficult to determine, even by Florida,” said Leah Aden, the deputy director of litigation at the fund.

Aden said the organization plans to keep fighting the law.

In May, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled conditioning voting rights on legal financial obligations violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by preventing people from voting based on their wealth. The law also violates the 24th Amendment that prohibits states from instituting a poll tax.


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