JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida ex-felons must pay all fines, restitution and legal fees before they can regain their right to vote, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
Now, questions are swirling about whether this will have much of an effect on the November election in Florida.
Dr. Michael Binder, UNF associate professor of political science, said data shows ex-felons could have tended to vote more Democratic. He said that’s one reason why the DeSantis administration was so quick to fight back earlier this year when a judge ruled ex-felons did not have to pay off all fines — and they were victorious in the appeals process Friday.
“I fundamentally believe if Republicans thought that this would help them, enfranchising these people would be a benefit to Republican Party votes, this wouldn’t have been an issue,” Binder said.
Binder said the ruling’s impacts on November vote totals are a mixed bag. He said that while there is some data that shows ex-felons may vote more on the Democratic side, a large number register as no party affiliation. He added many may not vote, but in a state where elections can have minuscule margins, it could affect a race because there are an estimated 774,000 ex-felons in Florida who still owe fines.
“This is Florida, right? So literally a couple hundred votes could turn an election. Often times, a lot of states aren’t particularly close, so a few thousand votes in one direction or another doesn’t really matter. Florida is not that state. Every vote matters,” Binder said.
Binder said he doesn’t expect any further court rulings on this issue before the November election.