Critics say Florida legislation would impose poll tax on felons who won right to vote

Election Law

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Florida lawmakers are considering bills that would block some felons from voting despite a voter-approved constitutional amendment restoring their voting rights.

After the first bill passed a House of Representatives subcommittee Tuesday, critics said it amounted to a poll tax, report the Miami Herald, the New York Times and Slate. The bill requires felons to pay back all court fees and costs before they can vote.

A different bill filed with a Senate committee also would require felons to pay fees but only those imposed by a judge as part of a sentence.

Slate questioned the fee provision in the House bill in an article written after it advanced Tuesday. Florida practices “cash-register justice,” according to the article, by imposing fines of up to $500,000 on convicted defendants and then requiring them to pay “a mind-boggling array of administrative fees.”

The ballot measure, known as Amendment 4, passed with the approval of 64 percent of Florida voters in November. It authorizes the restoration of voting rights for felons after they complete the terms of their sentence, except for those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses.

The bills attempt to tackle the definitions of murder and felony sex offenses. The Senate version defines murder to include attempted murder and felony manslaughter. The House version refers only to murder but defines felony sexual offenses broadly to include prostitution.

Related article: “Ballot measures give felons the right to vote, overturn Jim Crow-era jury law and legalize marijuana”

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