Months after Floridians voted to restore the right to vote to individuals with prior felony convictions who had completed their sentences, the state legislature passed a bill, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, explicitly requiring these individuals to pay all fines and fees before they can cast a ballot, regardless of circumstance. Many have criticized the law, SB 7066, for instituting a financial hurdle to exercising the right to vote and effectively overturning the will of the voters who passed Amendment 4.
But a significant issue has also been the fact that the state has no central database or system for actually tracking what people owe with any certainty — thus putting the onus on the voter to navigate a murky system. Florida’s Department of State said it was developing a procedure wherein it can regularly update counties with lists of felons who owe fees, but the lack of process remains a serious concern.
In October, a federal judge temporarily blocked the law for 17 people who challenged SB 7066 in court, and ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny the franchise to those who are “genuinely unable to pay.” U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle also said that there needed to be a process for evaluating someone’s claim that they can’t afford to pay their outstanding fees. Meanwhile, the 2020 election — and registration deadlines — draw nearer, with Hinkle having accused the DeSantis administration in December of trying to “run out the clock.”
American Oversight is investigating the development and implementation of Amendment 4 and SB 7066, looking at the related records of state and local officials involved in implementing the new law.