Federal judge rules Florida can't stop ex-felons from voting over money they owe

Federal judge rules Florida can't stop ex-felons from voting over money they owe
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A federal judge ruled Friday that Florida election officials cannot block a group of former felons from registering to vote due to unpaid financial obligations.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in his ruling that both the Florida secretary of state and local election officials cannot block the group of 17 people with former felony convictions from signing up to vote "based only on failure to pay a financial obligation that the plaintiff asserts the plaintiff is genuinely unable to pay."

The preliminary injunction from Hinkle, a Clinton appointee, comes in a case filed against the state by the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, the Orange County Branch of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Florida.

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The groups sued over a constitutional amendment approved by state voters on the November 2018 ballot that restored the voting rights of some felons — a repeal of Florida’s previous lifetime voting ban for those convicted of criminal charges.

According to court documents, while the 17 individual plaintiffs in the case have all served their prison sentences and would otherwise be able to vote, they haven’t paid off the debts they had when they were sentenced.

The case will later reach the Florida Supreme Court, which will decide whether “all terms of sentence” means not only terms of imprisonment and supervision but also fines and other obligations imposed as part of a sentence.