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    Appeals Court Upholds Florida Requirement That Ex-Felons Pay Outstanding Fines To Regain Vote

    Appeals Court Upholds Florida Requirement That Ex-Felons Pay Outstanding Fines To Regain Vote

    If the 11th Circuit ruling holds, will the diminution of the ex-felon vote hurt Democrats in November in this crucial electoral state? Everyone assumes so, even Democrats. Think about that.
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    The last time we checked in on the ability of ex-felons to vote in Florida, I questioned whether Florida’s requirement that all court-assessed fines and fees be paid would survive, Some of Florida ex-felon vote in limbo after SCOTUS ruling:

    Why do so many people, Democrat and Republican alike, assume that felons released from prison will vote Democrat, and that a Florida ballot initiative that passed in 2018, restoring voting to ex-felons, would help Democrats? It’s not clear that’s true, at least not to the extent people assume.

    That assumption seems to be at the heart of the political battle in Florida over the circumstances under which felons who have served their time can vote. The Florida legislature passed legislation requiring that an ex-felon, to be deemed to have served his sentence, needed to pay court-assessed fees and financial penalties.

    After a District Court issued an injunction against the requirement to pay fees, the 11th Circuit stayed the injunction pending consideration of the full case on the merits….

    The Supreme Court just declined to overturn that Order by the 11th Circuit staying the District Court injunction…

    Since the 11th Circuit will consider the case in August, it’s very possible that the lower court injunction will be affirmed, and the ex-felons at issue will be able to vote in November. Or that it will be back at the Supreme Court at a more ripe moment. I see the Supreme Court denial of the motion to vacate the 11th Circuit stay as a mostly procedural issue.

    So back to my question, why are we assuming this hurts Democrats?

    The 11th Circuit, en banc (full court) just ruled in favor of the State of Florida. The ruling was 6-4.

    The Opinion (pdf.) holds, in pertinent part:

    Florida has long followed the common practice of excluding those who commit serious crimes from voting. But in 2018, the people of Florida approved a historic amendment to their state constitution to restore the voting rights of thousands of convicted felons. They imposed only one condition: before regaining the right to vote, felons must complete all the terms of their criminal sentences, including imprisonment, probation, and payment of any fines, fees, costs, and restitution. We must decide whether the financial terms of that condition violate the Constitution.

    Several felons sued to challenge the requirement that they pay their fines, fees, costs, and restitution before regaining the right to vote. They complained that this requirement violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to felons who cannot afford to pay the required amounts and that it imposes a tax on voting in violation of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment; that the laws governing felon reenfranchisement and voter fraud are void for vagueness; and that Florida has denied them procedural due process by adopting requirements that make it difficult for them to determine whether they are eligible to vote. The district court entered a permanent injunction that allows any felon who is unable to pay his fines or restitution or who has failed for any reason to pay his court fees and costs to register and vote. Because the felons failed to prove a violation of the Constitution, we reverse the judgment of the district court and vacate the challenged portions of its injunction.

    The Dissent (starting at page 97 of the pdf., with another Dissent by some of those judges at page 81) argued, in part, that Florida’s system left most ex-felons unable to determine what they actually owed such that they even could pay it off if they wanted to. This was all a ruse to defeate the will of the electorate:

    In arguing this appeal, the State told us outright what it has been showing us
    all along: The State doesn’t care if “the proportion of felons able to complete their
    sentence” with LFOs included is “0%.” Reply Br. of Appellants at 15–16. If this
    is not a nullification of the will of the electorate, I don’t know what would be. And
    it is a dream deferred11 for the men and women who, having paid their debt to
    society to the extent of their capacity—often by having served lengthy prison
    sentences and periods under supervision—are deprived of the franchise that
    Amendment 4 promised to automatically restore. The majority today deprives the
    plaintiffs and countless others like them of opportunity and equality in voting
    through its denial of the plaintiffs’ due process, Twenty-Fourth Amendment, and
    equal protection claims. I dissent.

    For sure, there will be an attempt to get the Supreme Court to issue a stay of the 11th Circuit ruling, and to reinstate the District Court injuncation allowing ex-felons to vote without regard to financial penalties and fees still owed.

    If the 11th Circuit ruling holds, will the diminution of the ex-felon vote hurt Democrats? Everyone assumes so, even Democrats. Think about that.


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    DaveGinOly | September 11, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    The dissent seemed to imply that the state has an obligation to encourage, coax, or facilitate the payment of the fines. And that failing to do so is the same as denying the convicts their rights. Well, their rights have been taken from them by due (judicial) process. The state also provides encouragement for convicts to pay their fines – the restoration of certain rights is an enticement to do so.

    If the “State doesn’t care if ‘the proportion of felons able to complete their sentence’ with LFOs included is ‘0%’” it’s because the onus is on the convict to meet the imposed demands. That’s called “personal responsibility,” and it’s among the traits the state’s administration of “corrections” is meant to instill in the convict.

    healthguyfsu | September 11, 2020 at 11:29 pm

    This should have been so cut and dry. The fines are part of their restitution with the state. They aren’t ex-felons until their restitution is complete.

      Arminius in reply to healthguyfsu. | September 12, 2020 at 4:52 pm

      Totally agree with healthyguyfsu. The voters in Florida clearly stated that ex-felons (really no such thing as once a felon always a felon; try lying to an employer about your status if you’ve been convicted of a felony, particularly if it’s a crime of moral turpitude) can vote. But you don’t regain your voting rights until you have completed your sentence. And paying fines, restitution, court costs, probation fees, etc., is part of your sentence.

      The Florida law sounds the same as the law here in Texas.

      “Texas Election Code § 11.002. Qualified Voter

      …(4) has not been finally convicted of a felony or, if so convicted, has:

      (A) fully discharged the person’s sentence, including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision, or completed a period of probation ordered by any court;  or

      (B) been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disability to vote;…”

      If these people haven’t paid their fines, etc., then they have not fully discharged their sentence. Some will never fully discharge their sentence. Some murderers may be paroled, but if they’re on parole for life then they never are eligible voters. I’m fine with that. No one has ever successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Texas law. I don’t see how anyone can challenge this Florida law. I don’t see the 11th Circuit’s ruling overturned. If the voters said felons have to complete all the terms of their sentence then they have to pay their entire debt to society.

      To rule otherwise would be to rule that they could request an absentee ballot and vote in prison immediately after conviction. After all, if felons don’t have to fulfill all the terms of their sentence, then why per that logic would they have to fulfill any of them?

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | September 12, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    Side note related to election frauds…..

    Anyone do research of their own on this topic of how corrupt the state governments are by factual evidence?

    The Impact of Public Officials’ Corruption on the Size and Allocation of U.S. State Spending

    I’ve always assumed that the reason the Democrats assume fewer felons voting means fewer Democrat votes is because the more eligible felon voters there are the larger the potential margin of vote fraud is. I’d bet that, despite statistics showing felons who can vote rarely do, the percentage of eligible felons voting in Florida will be suspiciously high.

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