JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Florida hosted a meeting Thursday in Jacksonville, discussing plans to fight a new state law, which it says is a threat to Amendment 4.
The Legislature passed the law this spring to carry out the November constitutional amendment designed to restore the voting rights of felons. Voting- and civil-rights groups, including the ACLU, went to federal court contending that the law improperly ties restoration of felons’ voting rights to their ability to pay financial obligations -- what critics of the law have described as a “poll tax.”
"They immediately set toward undermining and restricting Amendment 4. Now they talk about it in terms of implementing Amendment 4," said Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. "Florida has a long history of racially disenfranchising folks going back to after the Civil War. This is really the latest salvo of that particular effort. It’s a poll tax that says your ability to pay legal fees fines and obligations determines whether you’ll be able to vote or not."
ACLU attorney Jimmy Midyette also expressed concerns about racial disparity with the legislation (SB 7066), saying that African Americans are less likely to be freed of these financial obligations before getting back their voting rights.
“We have sued the state and are confident we’re on the right side of history and we have the facts behind us so we can win court rulings that block implementation and repeal SB 7066,” Midyette said.
Amendment 4, approved by more than 64% of Florida voters, granted restoration of voting rights to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.” The amendment excluded people “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.”