If there’s one thing the GOP loves, it’s voter suppression. Republicans in the Florida House proved that yet again on Wednesday when they passed a bill (71-45, along party lines) that would implement Amendment 4, the historic legislation giving felons the right to vote, but only grant them this right if they’d already paid court fines, fees and restitution.
This butts up against a similar Senate bill (yet to be heard on the Senate floor) that would only require restitution be paid, the caveat being that felons don’t need to pay court fines and fees if they’ve been converted into a civil lien. This isn’t much better, though, as the Miami Herald explains, and implementing either bill could drain the state of financial resources:
However it’s resolved, the outcome could prevent thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of felons from voting, undermining the hope of the historic amendment.
Many owe fines, fees or restitution, and some owe so much that they’ll never be able to vote.
And the cost to the state could be enormous. Florida has no system to track restitution, and creating one could cost millions of dollars.
Amendment 4’s creators say that the bill is self-implementing. A summary of the legislation shows succinctly which felons are allowed to vote:
This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.
Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa), who sponsored the House bill, argues that paying court fees is part of “[completing] all terms of their service.”
Let’s face it—Florida’s House Republicans are undermining what the state’s residents voted into law in November and putting a price tag on the right to vote.