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.
- Florida House of Representatives legislative staff communications with state elections officials about SB 7066, Amendment 4, or voter-roll maintenance;
- Communications between the office of State Rep. James Grant, the author of HB 7089, which aimed to weaken Amendment 4, and voter-fraud activists like Kris Kobach, J. Christian Adams or Hans von Spakovsky;
- Communications between State Rep. Grant’s office and state elections officials;
- Records related to the implementation of SB 7066, including directives, guidance, or records showing how information about sentence-term completion is tracked and shared. We requested these records from the secretary of state and the county clerk offices of the following counties: Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach;
- Email communications between county clerk offices and other local officials and private collection agents about the implementation of SB 7066. Those counties include Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach;
- Communications between the county clerks of courts of Clay, Orange and Pinellas Counties and other state and local officials involved in implementing Amendment 4;
- Records from the Florida Department of State and the Office of the Governor related to the Restoration of Voting Rights Work Group (also known as the Restoration of Voting Rights Task Force), which was established pursuant to SB 7066;
- Internal guidance from the Florida Office of Executive Clemency regarding applications by felons for the restoration of civil rights, as well as records identifying the number of such applications;
- Records from the Florida Department of Corrections related to the department’s role in implementing Amendment 4, SB 7066, or the restoration of voting rights for people with prior felony convictions; and
- Emails from the Florida Department of State to county elections supervisors about Amendment 4, SB 7066, or the restoration of voting rights.