The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that only felons that have paid all their fines and fees related to their conviction will be allowed to vote, which Florida now allows due to a recent amendment to the state constitution.
Amendment 4 granted voting rights to former convicts who completed "all terms of sentence," and were not convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill last June that made it compulsory that former convicts pay all restitution, court fees, and fines before they are able to vote again. The American Civil Liberties Union objected to the bill, claiming it constitutes an illegal poll tax.
"The phrase 'completion of all terms of sentence' includes any period of incarceration, probation, parole, and financial obligations imposed as part of an individual's sentence," the ruling notes. "The financial obligations may include restitution and fines, imposed as part of a sentence or a condition of probation under existing Florida statute."
The ruling concludes the phrase "'all terms of sentence'" has "an ordinary meaning that the voters would have understood to refer not only to durational periods but also to all LFOs imposed in conjunction with an adjudication of guilt. We express no opinion on any question other than the narrow one presented to us."
DeSantis tweeted Thursday:
"I am pleased that [the Florida Supreme Court] confirms that Amendment 4 requires fines, fees & restitution be paid to victims before their voting rights may be restored. Voting is a privilege that should not be taken lightly, and I am obligated to faithfully implement Amendment 4 as it is defined."
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