Our Florida legislature can be counted on to overturn the will of the voters. They have done this with class size, medical marijuana, high-speed rail, and land conservation.
They’re up to their tricks again when it comes to Amendment 4 — the restoration of voting rights for former felons. You’ll recall that in 2018, this amendment passed with 64.5 percent of the vote. There was nothing about the amendment language that needed “clarification,” yet that is exactly what the Legislature has done.
SB 7066 was passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature requiring former felons to pay all restitution, fees and fines before they are eligible to vote. The amendment language did not use the words “restitution or fines.”
This bill wound up in court with you and I, through our tax dollars, defending the Legislature’s action to circumvent our wishes! Yet, those fighting for the former felon’s right to vote, like the ACLU, had to pay their own legal costs.
In October the ACLU and other criminal justice groups prevailed in their lawsuit filed on behalf of 17 plaintiffs. The ruling, which temporarily halted the implementation of SB 7066, only applies to these 17 plaintiffs, however.
During the two-day court proceedings, Dan Smith, a University of Florida political science professor supplied data that showed nearly 80 percent of felons have outstanding debts that could prevent them from voting.
A trial date in federal court is set for April 2020. Gov. DeSantis has asked the FL Supreme Court for an advisory opinion to define “all terms of sentence.” It would be just that — a non-binding opinion, so what’s the point?
What you can do now is to call your state representative and Gov. DeSantis and tell them to stop wasting our money and repeal SB 7066. And while you’re at it, maybe you can chip in a few dollars for the ACLU.