Federal Court Overturns Florida “Poll Tax” On Felons

Tallahassee’s NBC News affiliate reports:

A federal judge has ruled that the Florida law requiring felons to pay legal fees as part of their sentences before regaining the vote is unconstitutional for those unable to pay, or unable to find out how much they owe.

The 125-page ruling issued late Sunday by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee concerns the state law to implement a 2016 ballot measure approved by voters to automatically restore the right to vote for felons who have completed their sentence.

Hinkle has acknowledged he is unlikely to have the last word, expecting the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to launch an appeal.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

The trial stems from a lawsuit by progressive and voting rights groups claiming the fines and fees requirement in SB 7066 was racially discriminatory and the equivalent of a “poll tax” banned by the U.S. Constitution.

That controversial bill was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by DeSantis in 2019. Felon voting rights advocates had claimed the amendment was self-implementing and did not need any action by the Legislature.

DeSantis can appeal the decision to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. A previous appeal failed when Hinkle’s initial injunction was upheld by a three-judge panel, and a request by DeSantis for the full court to hear the case was denied.