- Alex Wong/Getty Images
- Progressives are voicing outrage over a bill being pushed by the Republican-dominated Florida state legislature to limit the number of former felons who can vote.
- The GOP-sponsored bill would require former felons to pay all of their court fees and fines before they’re re-enfranchised.
- Critics, including Hillary Clinton and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, say the measure is equivalent to an unconstitutional poll tax.
Progressives are voicing outrage over a bill being pushed by the Republican-controlled Florida state legislature to limit the number of former felons who can vote, even after the vast majority of Floridians approved the re-enfranchisement of most ex-felons last year.
The GOP bill would require former felons to pay all of their court fees and fines to the state before they’re able to register to vote.
Critics say the bill both undermines the will of Florida’s voters, who overwhelming support re-enfranchisement, and discriminates against former felons based on their access to financial resources.
Prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on Wednesday called the bill an unconstitutional poll tax.
“A poll tax by any other name,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
Clinton quoted the 24th Amendment, which makes it unconstitutional to deny any citizen their right to vote through a “poll tax or any other tax.”
"The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election… shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax."
Amendment 24, Section 1. https://t.co/mKgufOUHJa
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 20, 2019
Sen. Kamala Harris, a 2020 presidential candidate, also criticized the effort, tweeting, “After a historic effort in Florida to restore voting rights to about 1.4 million formerly incarcerated individuals, Republican lawmakers are attempting to limit their right to vote.”
Former attorney general Eric Holder tweeted his opposition, accusing Florida Republicans of “ignoring the will of the people.” And Julie Ebenstein, a voting rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, was quoted by NBC News as saying, “It’s an affront to the Florida voters.”
The vast majority of Florida voters – nearly 65% – approved a constitutional amendment in November that would restore the voting rights of more than 1.5 million former felons after completion of any required parole or probation. Nearly a quarter – 23% – of African-American adults cannot vote in the state due to a previous felony conviction
The broadly popular Amendment 4, which made no mention of fees, does not apply to those convicted of murder or felony sex crimes.
The GOP measure would prevent even those who are set to make their court-mandated payments in installments from exercising their right to vote until they complete their payments.
About 6 million Americans were legally barred from voting on election day last November because of their felony convictions. Florida was one of a handful of states that permanently disenfranchised convicted felons.
Florida’s Amendment 4 was the single largest extension of voting rights since the 19th Amendment gave American women the right to vote in 1920.