Florida Former Felons Voting Rights Lawsuit Granted Class Action Certification, Paving The Way to All Former Felons Having Voting Rights Restored
Florida ex-felons’ long battle to have their civil right to vote restored, as the voters already dictated, took another huge step in April when the federal judge overseeing the case granted class certification to the lawsuit, opening the door for the success that applied to the original 17 plaintiffs to now apply to every single Florida former felon. Because U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle indicated that his previous ruling allowing former felons to vote even if they still owe any fees and fines connected to their previous convictions covers everyone statewide (and not just the specific 17 individuals listed on the lawsuit), the order (and right) now applies to an estimated 1.4 million people who will presumably be able to vote in the upcoming election.
History Of The Issue
While voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4, the Florida legislature then passed a bill which dictated that, in order to vote, all ex-felons would first have to satisfy any remaining fines and fees. While most of the court decisions have agreed with the ex-felons on the need to restore their civil right to vote, finding that the law passed by the legislature discriminates based on wealth and is the equivalent of a poll tax (and thus unconstitutional, violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law), the only hurdle along the way was the Florida Supreme Court, which agreed with the Governor in finding that requiring every fine to be paid as part of completing one’s sentence did not violate any constitutional rights.
The State’s Next Move
Evidence indicates that state officials will now try to push back on the court’s finding that class certification has been met based on wealth-based discrimination, arguing that it is too broad and plaintiffs have not met their burden to define their subclass. The state already argued in a court document that certification based on wealth is problematic, poorly defined, and requires millions of determinations regarding which former felons are actually unable to pay any outstanding financial obligations. The trial is scheduled to be conducted remotely by video conference on April 27 due to the coronavirus social distancing concerns.
If You Are Facing Civil Rights/Criminal Concerns In Florida, Contact Our Attorneys
There is no question that no one should be denied the right to vote based on being unable or failing to pay for something, and this applies to everyone in Florida. If you have been denied your civil rights as a result of a criminal charge or conviction, contact The Baez Law Firm today to find out how our Orlando criminal attorneys can ensure that your rights are protected.