A federal court ruled that Florida cannot force former felons to repay their court costs before getting their right to vote back.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday struck down Florida's modern-day poll tax — a major victory for voting rights in America.
The ruling stems from the court battle over Florida's Amendment 4, a constitutional amendment approved by more than 64% of Florida voters in 2018.
However, after the amendment passed, Republicans in control of the state legislature passed a law, S.B. 7066, requiring felons to settle their debts — including restitution, fines, and other legal fees — before being allowed to vote.
Critics — including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund — said the law amounted to a poll tax, which have been used historically to suppress the African American vote, and they sued the state saying the law was unconstitutional.
A federal court ruled in favor of those critics, saying that Florida's law forcing ex-felons to repay their fees "unconstitutionally punishes a class of felons based only on their wealth."
"The long and short of it is that once a state provides an avenue to ending the punishment of disenfranchisement—as the voters of Florida plainly did—it must do so consonant with the principles of equal protection and it may not erect a wealth barrier absent a justification sufficient to overcome heightened scrutiny," a three-judge panel wrote in their decision.
The state plans to appeal the ruling, according to a spokesperson for Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.