Today’s entry: If Florida’s Supreme Court already ruled on felon voting rights, why does another court ruling matter?
Bottom Line: This question comes on back of Tuesday’s hearing before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging Florida’s felon voting rights law. This is the law that clarified financial restitution is a requirement for the restoration of a felon’s voting rights. As I’ve regularly pointed out but is almost always omitted by news media in discussing this issue, it was not the Republican-led state legislature of Florida who first established the premise of financial restitution being a requirement for restoration of felon voting rights. It was the legal counsel representing the interest groups behind Amendment 4, who first affirmed this before the Florida Supreme Court and was actually a condition of approval for the proposed amendment by our high court. It was only after the passage of the amendment that the backers did a 180. They showed their true colors and dishonesty about their pledge to ensure victims would be made financially whole prior to felons regaining voting rights. It was at this point that the state passed a law mandating what the Amendment 4 advocates promised before Florida’s Supreme Court.
Those challenging Florida’s law, who were dishonest during the Amendment 4 process and do not believe that victims or taxpayers should be made whole prior to full rights being restored, include the Southern Poverty Law Center, The ACLU, and NAACP. These organizations have worked parallel legal paths in Florida’s legal system in addition to the federal legal system. The recent Florida Supreme Court ruling affirmed the need for financial restitution to occur as originally promised. That ended the process in the state courts. Of course, voting rights are also federal rights, and the current case before the 11th Circuit is an attempt for an injunction. The litigants are seeking to allow felons to continue to register to vote and to vote in Florida until a full court case could be heard in April.
In this case, these issues, impact most former felons. Only approximately 20% of Florida’s felons have completed the financial terms of their sentences.
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