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U.S. Judge says Florida felon voting restoration is constitutional right

Posted at 6:27 PM, May 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-25 18:27:37-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The legal battle to allow convicted felons in Florida the right to vote is tipping in the favor of felons.

That news is exciting many in support of Amendment Four.

Judge Robert Hinkle ruled it is unconstitutional to ask qualifying felons to pay all restitution and legal fees before getting the chance to cast a ballot.

Judge Hinkle says it especially hurts those who can't afford the outstanding legal fees and the men and women who are still trying to figure out if they owe anything.

Back in November of 2018, Floridians voted to pass Amendment Four, granting voter restoration to most felons.

The Florida Legislature later changed the Amendment, adding fines and legal fees must be paid in full in order to vote.

Now, with a U.S. Judge disagreeing with legislature, those waiting on the right to vote can't wait to get to the polls.

Stanley Sims, a former felon, says his excitement for the upcoming election is even stronger now because he wants his voice to be heard.

"Corrections is about repentance of wrong," said Sims. "So once, in the judges eyes, he says that I've been confined and separated from my family for X amount of days. To then require individuals such as myself to pay to vote after we've already exited the system and paid with the price."

If the governor does appeal the ruling the continued court battle will likely keep many felons away from the polls in November.

There are an estimated 774,000 disenfranchised felons in Florida, representing a significant bloc in the state

This may not be the end of the debate. Judge Hinkle is expecting Governor DeSantis to appeal his ruling.