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Appeals Court Upholds Florida Requirement That Ex-Felons Pay Outstanding Fines To Regain Vote

Appeals Court Upholds Florida Requirement That Ex-Felons Pay Outstanding Fines To Regain Vote

If the 11th Circuit ruling holds, will the diminution of the ex-felon vote hurt Democrats in November in this crucial electoral state? Everyone assumes so, even Democrats. Think about that.

The last time we checked in on the ability of ex-felons to vote in Florida, I questioned whether Florida’s requirement that all court-assessed fines and fees be paid would survive, Some of Florida ex-felon vote in limbo after SCOTUS ruling:

Why do so many people, Democrat and Republican alike, assume that felons released from prison will vote Democrat, and that a Florida ballot initiative that passed in 2018, restoring voting to ex-felons, would help Democrats? It’s not clear that’s true, at least not to the extent people assume.

That assumption seems to be at the heart of the political battle in Florida over the circumstances under which felons who have served their time can vote. The Florida legislature passed legislation requiring that an ex-felon, to be deemed to have served his sentence, needed to pay court-assessed fees and financial penalties.

After a District Court issued an injunction against the requirement to pay fees, the 11th Circuit stayed the injunction pending consideration of the full case on the merits….

The Supreme Court just declined to overturn that Order by the 11th Circuit staying the District Court injunction…

Since the 11th Circuit will consider the case in August, it’s very possible that the lower court injunction will be affirmed, and the ex-felons at issue will be able to vote in November. Or that it will be back at the Supreme Court at a more ripe moment. I see the Supreme Court denial of the motion to vacate the 11th Circuit stay as a mostly procedural issue.

So back to my question, why are we assuming this hurts Democrats?

The 11th Circuit, en banc (full court) just ruled in favor of the State of Florida. The ruling was 6-4.

The Opinion (pdf.) holds, in pertinent part:

Florida has long followed the common practice of excluding those who commit serious crimes from voting. But in 2018, the people of Florida approved a historic amendment to their state constitution to restore the voting rights of thousands of convicted felons. They imposed only one condition: before regaining the right to vote, felons must complete all the terms of their criminal sentences, including imprisonment, probation, and payment of any fines, fees, costs, and restitution. We must decide whether the financial terms of that condition violate the Constitution.

Several felons sued to challenge the requirement that they pay their fines, fees, costs, and restitution before regaining the right to vote. They complained that this requirement violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to felons who cannot afford to pay the required amounts and that it imposes a tax on voting in violation of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment; that the laws governing felon reenfranchisement and voter fraud are void for vagueness; and that Florida has denied them procedural due process by adopting requirements that make it difficult for them to determine whether they are eligible to vote. The district court entered a permanent injunction that allows any felon who is unable to pay his fines or restitution or who has failed for any reason to pay his court fees and costs to register and vote. Because the felons failed to prove a violation of the Constitution, we reverse the judgment of the district court and vacate the challenged portions of its injunction.

The Dissent (starting at page 97 of the pdf., with another Dissent by some of those judges at page 81) argued, in part, that Florida’s system left most ex-felons unable to determine what they actually owed such that they even could pay it off if they wanted to. This was all a ruse to defeate the will of the electorate:

In arguing this appeal, the State told us outright what it has been showing us
all along: The State doesn’t care if “the proportion of felons able to complete their
sentence” with LFOs included is “0%.” Reply Br. of Appellants at 15–16. If this
is not a nullification of the will of the electorate, I don’t know what would be. And
it is a dream deferred11 for the men and women who, having paid their debt to
society to the extent of their capacity—often by having served lengthy prison
sentences and periods under supervision—are deprived of the franchise that
Amendment 4 promised to automatically restore. The majority today deprives the
plaintiffs and countless others like them of opportunity and equality in voting
through its denial of the plaintiffs’ due process, Twenty-Fourth Amendment, and
equal protection claims. I dissent.

For sure, there will be an attempt to get the Supreme Court to issue a stay of the 11th Circuit ruling, and to reinstate the District Court injuncation allowing ex-felons to vote without regard to financial penalties and fees still owed.

If the 11th Circuit ruling holds, will the diminution of the ex-felon vote hurt Democrats? Everyone assumes so, even Democrats. Think about that.


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notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | September 11, 2020 at 5:06 pm

What about child support?

At the risk of offending the other commentators.

I am of the opinion that an ex – felons rights should be restored.

That being said, the felon should pay the full debt, both prison time (subject to parole), plus reasonable fines. My complaint is that often times, the fines become excessive, (exceeding 5A limits) and are being used to generate money vs victim compensation and amount to being puntative.

In summary, the court got the correct answer on restoring the felons voting rights, But unfortunately, the issue of excessive fines was not before the court.

    tom_swift in reply to Joe-dallas. | September 11, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    and amount to being puntative.

    And what’s wrong with that?

    All sentences are punitive. That’s their only function.

    considering the fact that the taxpayer housed, fed and gave this person healthcare for the duration of the sentence, getting some, if not all of that money back isn’t too much to ask.
    In many cases the taxpayer also paid their lawyer bills as well.

      healthguyfsu in reply to buck61. | September 11, 2020 at 11:30 pm

      My thoughts exactly. Their fines are only a small part of what they have cost society. No sympathy here, especially not for voting rights.

      Joe-dallas in reply to buck61. | September 12, 2020 at 9:16 am

      In response to all – My first point was that all the fines should be paid and time served before the felon’s voting rights are restored. My second point was we need to be careful that the fines are not excessive in violation of 8A. If we as conservatives should be consistent and respect the entire constitution. We cant demand respect for 2A while disregarding 8A.

      Amendment 8A-
      Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    If they hadn’t decided to do a felony they wouldn’t have this problem.
    Pay up and atone for your crimes. And be glad we’re a lenient people compared to other nations.

      drednicolson in reply to 4fun. | September 12, 2020 at 6:11 am

      That assumes a just code of laws. One means for tyrants to control the populace is to so bloat and pervert the law that it becomes nigh impossible *not* to commit a felony. So they can always find something to pressure or punish the opposition with, all under color of law.

    Anonamom in reply to Joe-dallas. | September 12, 2020 at 10:58 am

    There are ALREADY ways for felons to seek restoration of their voting rights. However, those ways require that the allegedly reformed person, you know, DO something. And those aren’t the kind of people that the Democrats are courting. You know, the not-idiot ones who were actually reformed.

    henrybowman in reply to Joe-dallas. | September 12, 2020 at 10:41 pm

    “for the men and women who, having paid their debt to society to the extent of their capacity—often by having served lengthy prison sentences and periods under supervision—are deprived of the franchise that Amendment 4 promised to automatically restore.”

    The moment you restore their Amendment 2 rights, I’ll back you up on that.

      “Amendment 4” is the FL ballot measure, not the the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution. That said, what is this writer smoking? Amendment 4 never promised “automatic restoration”. Restoration is conditional. The writer is clearly reading things that aren’t there.

This such a simple case, as the amendment reads, complete all terms of the sentence. If you complete all the terms you can apply. Not sure why this was a 6-4 ruling. Maybe the dissenters should be chiding their fellow judges for imposing so called harsh terms besides prison time during sentencing. Then you will get the uproar from the victims rights side of the cases.
Those same judges should draft a new amendment and put it to a vote of the citizens of Florida that includes me,

I have always believed convicts should have a right to vote. They are where the law meets the individual. If convicts collective voices could effect political races then prison would not be death traps and the last funding consideration.

So back to my question, why are we assuming this hurts Democrats?

We’ll know the answer to that when Dimocrats start collecting donations to help the convicts pay their fines & fees.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to rinardman. | September 11, 2020 at 5:51 pm

    I know you’re snarking about that, but….


    If the DEMS didn’t catch and release automatically, other DEMS (Hollywood especially) have been paying to get them out.

    Dusty Pitts in reply to rinardman. | September 11, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    “Defund the Police” isn’t a Republican proposal.

    They won’t collect donations, they’ll collect the blank ballots and fill it in for the convicts.
    Ballot harvesting.

    henrybowman in reply to rinardman. | September 12, 2020 at 10:56 pm

    Here’s one good reason:

    Jail survey: 7 in 10 felons register as Democrats

    Here’s another:

    The text accompanying this Vox chart claims:

    “The potential electoral impact of Florida’s ballot initiative is further limited by the fact that the ex-felons who do vote are not politically uniform. While black voters within this population overwhelmingly register with the Democratic Party (87 percent), nonblack voters within this population were more likely to register as Republicans (40 percent) than as a Democrats (34 percent). The fact that 26 percent of the remaining nonblack voters affiliate with neither party suggests that their votes may not reliably be cast for either party.”

    Now, despite all that verbiage, look at the chart. Are the red and blue areas roughly equal? Not even hell, no.

I agree with allowing ex-felons to vote.
I also agree that you’ve not paid your debt to society if you have not paid the fees and fines imposed for the crime.

If a fine or fee is excessive, that is a separate issue that needs to be addressed separately. Sounds like common sense to me. But it seems lately that we are living in a strange world/dimension/universe/whatever.

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | September 11, 2020 at 6:29 pm

What does the crazy labeling on the USPS boxes in the article picture mean?????

Wait till Chief Justice (it’s a tax) Robert gets hold of this one. He will lead the liberals in ruling that the appeal is invalid because the typeface was 1 nanometer out of spec. Roberts favors political expediency over principle. He crafts bizarre procedural arguments to side with the liberal wing. Just look at his Judicial juvenila found in Hollingworth v Perry where Roberts used standing as a way of foisting gay rights upon the United States.

“Why do so many people, Democrat and Republican alike, assume that felons released from prison will vote Democrat?”

Wouldn’t have anything to do with “soft on crime-itis” that has penetrated leftist/Democrat thinking flowing from the Warren Court’s laying down the red carpet for criminals, would it?

    Arminius in reply to fscarn. | September 12, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    When the movement to allow students, particularly women concerned about rape and campus, to carry concealed handguns on campus it turned out one of the leaders of a group opposing this movement turned out to be a *convicted rapist.

    If you’re a career criminal and rape is part of your repertoire you definitely want to make sure your victim is disarmed.

    Likewise if you’re a career criminal you want to defund the police. That makes it more likely you’ll never get caught.

    My personal belief is that there should be a waiting period before a felon has his/her rights restored. Not all felons a recidivist criminals; some do go straight. But we need to wait and make sure before we restore their rights. Do we really want felons voting for or against laws that apply to them, or sitting on juries?

    *I’ve tried several search engines and I haven’t found the story. I’ve even put quotes around exact search terms and I’ve found everything but, including a Wikipedia article on LGBT rights in Jamaica!?!?!?

    I’m not making the story up. I’m just further convinced that these search engines use algorithms that make sure you never find what you’re looking for until maybe you scroll through 500 pages of results if what you’re looking for is pro-conservative or if it goes against the Democrat leftist narrative.

      ” there should be a waiting period before a felon has his/her rights restored”

      Wouldn’t Parole fulfill this role?

        Arminius in reply to Dr S. | September 12, 2020 at 7:49 pm

        No. A waiting period after felons have completed all the terms of their criminal sentence. The 11th Circuit ruling cites the Florida law:

        “…But in 2018, the people of Florida approved a historic amendment to their state constitution to restore the voting rights of thousands of convicted felons. They imposed only one condition: before regaining the right to vote, felons must complete all the terms of their criminal sentences, including imprisonment, probation, and payment of any fines, fees, costs, and restitution.”

        A criminal on parole or probation is still a prisoner of the state. They have much more freedom then a prisoner actually in prison, or a halfway house, or wearing an ankle monitor while under house confinement, but they are still prisoners who have to abide by regulations just as they do in prison or other forms of detention. They have no 4A rights. Agents of the state or federal government can search their homes, vehicles, or other properties under their control without their consent. Knowing that they are still under active supervision of law enforcement officers may compel some of these felons to keep their noses clean. So opinion is that there should be a waiting period after they are no longer under active supervision so we can know how they’ll act when they are no longer under active supervision, when they no longer have to report for urinalysis to check for illegal drug use, no longer have to meet with their parole officers, no longer have to submit to involuntary searches, etc. How they act when they know they aren’t under a microscope anymore. Are they really reformed, or did they just keep up an act to avoid going back to prison if they violated parole.

        According to Bureau of Justice Statistics released prisoners have a very high rate of recidivism. From the BJS 2018 update to a 9 year study of recidivism of just over 400k prisoners released from 30 state’s prisons in 2005 alone:


        The 401,288 state prisoners released in 2005 had 1,994,000 arrests during the 9-year period, an average of 5 arrests per released prisoner. Sixty percent of these arrests occurred during years 4 through 9.
        – An estimated 68% of released prisoners were arrested within 3 years, 79% within 6 years, and 83% within 9 years.
        – Eighty-two percent of prisoners arrested during the 9-year period were arrested within the first 3 years.
        – Almost half (47%) of prisoners who did not have an arrest within 3 years of release were arrested during years 4 through 9.
        – Forty-four percent of released prisoners were arrested during the first year following release, while 24% were arrested during year-9.”

        As Aldo Leopold wrote in “A Sand County Almanac” it’s what people do when they think no one is watching that reveals character. From the report summary I take it that these felons had completed their entire sentences and were simply released under no supervision. Based on the results I’d say it’s safe to allow felons who have managed to not reoffend in the three years following the completion of their entire sentence (including parole) to vote.

AF_Chief_Master_Sgt | September 11, 2020 at 7:06 pm

When the victims of criminals can vote, the ex-felon can vote. So, when a felon deprives someone of life, no vote.

Pay the full debt to society, then you get to vote. I don’t care whether they are black or white, Republican or Democrat.

Can we extend that exclusion to dead beat student loan defaulters?

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | September 11, 2020 at 7:32 pm

So this millionaire NFL player would soon be able to vote again….

Justice Department

NFL Player Charged for Role in $24 Million COVID-Relief Fraud Scheme

An NFL player has been charged for his alleged participation in a scheme to file fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $24 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans

I suspect very few of these ex-felons actually vote.

I believe that any person convicted of a crime, who has served their time of incarceration, should be restored to freedom, including the right to vote. Fine, fees, costs, and restitution should be adjudicated like any other debt. But that is not what the Florida law specified. So the 11th Circuit rule correctly.

Felons vote Democrat because the Democratic Party is the party of criminals.
No bail laws that put criminals immediately back on the streets to reoffend the same night are a Democrat policy.
Allowing Black Lives Matter and antifa to riot, burn stores, and attack people in the streets is a Democrat policy.
Prosecuting law abiding citizens who defend themselves is a Democrat policy.
Not prosecuting people who fabricate false hate crimes is a Democrat policy.
I could go on and on about democrat policies that facilitate criminality but these are enough.

And don’t forget people, felons always vote in favor of gun control.
Can’t have their victims being armed can they?

The dissent seemed to imply that the state has an obligation to encourage, coax, or facilitate the payment of the fines. And that failing to do so is the same as denying the convicts their rights. Well, their rights have been taken from them by due (judicial) process. The state also provides encouragement for convicts to pay their fines – the restoration of certain rights is an enticement to do so.

If the “State doesn’t care if ‘the proportion of felons able to complete their sentence’ with LFOs included is ‘0%’” it’s because the onus is on the convict to meet the imposed demands. That’s called “personal responsibility,” and it’s among the traits the state’s administration of “corrections” is meant to instill in the convict.

This should have been so cut and dry. The fines are part of their restitution with the state. They aren’t ex-felons until their restitution is complete.

    Totally agree with healthyguyfsu. The voters in Florida clearly stated that ex-felons (really no such thing as once a felon always a felon; try lying to an employer about your status if you’ve been convicted of a felony, particularly if it’s a crime of moral turpitude) can vote. But you don’t regain your voting rights until you have completed your sentence. And paying fines, restitution, court costs, probation fees, etc., is part of your sentence.

    The Florida law sounds the same as the law here in Texas.

    “Texas Election Code § 11.002. Qualified Voter

    …(4) has not been finally convicted of a felony or, if so convicted, has:

    (A) fully discharged the person’s sentence, including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision, or completed a period of probation ordered by any court;  or

    (B) been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disability to vote;…”

    If these people haven’t paid their fines, etc., then they have not fully discharged their sentence. Some will never fully discharge their sentence. Some murderers may be paroled, but if they’re on parole for life then they never are eligible voters. I’m fine with that. No one has ever successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Texas law. I don’t see how anyone can challenge this Florida law. I don’t see the 11th Circuit’s ruling overturned. If the voters said felons have to complete all the terms of their sentence then they have to pay their entire debt to society.

    To rule otherwise would be to rule that they could request an absentee ballot and vote in prison immediately after conviction. After all, if felons don’t have to fulfill all the terms of their sentence, then why per that logic would they have to fulfill any of them?

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | September 12, 2020 at 3:44 pm

Side note related to election frauds…..

Anyone do research of their own on this topic of how corrupt the state governments are by factual evidence?

The Impact of Public Officials’ Corruption on the Size and Allocation of U.S. State Spending

I’ve always assumed that the reason the Democrats assume fewer felons voting means fewer Democrat votes is because the more eligible felon voters there are the larger the potential margin of vote fraud is. I’d bet that, despite statistics showing felons who can vote rarely do, the percentage of eligible felons voting in Florida will be suspiciously high.

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