Court won't review decision siding with ex-felons in Florida who challenged voting requirement

Court won't review decision siding with ex-felons in Florida who challenged voting requirement

A federal appeals court says it will not review a February decision blocking a state law that requires ex-convicts to pay back all legal fees before they are allowed to vote.

The Tuesday decision from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest salvo in a back-and-forth legal battle over the GOP-led effort to require former felons to pay court-ordered fines and fees before voting, a right that was restored to them in a 2018 state amendment. 

The three-judge panel first issued a ruling in February backing a preliminary injunction by a district court allowing 17 former felons to vote despite still having outstanding legal fees. Tuesday’s ruling denied a request from Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida sheriff bans deputies from wearing masks after refusing to enforce order DeSantis rules out 2024 White House run: 'Total garbage' US surpasses 5 million coronavirus cases MORE (R) and Secretary of State Laurel Lee (R) for a review by the full bench or a rehearing from the three-judge panel. 

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"We are disappointed in the denial of a rehearing before the full court; none the less, the case is going to full trial in three weeks," the governor's communications office said in a statement to CNN

The 2018 amendment, which passed the Florida ballot with roughly 65 percent of the vote, granted ex-convicts the right to vote without any legal strings attached. State Republicans, however, sought to curtail the powers of the amendment by passing the law including the requirement of paying legal financial obligations such as fines, fees and restitution. 

A litany of civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed legal challenges to the law, arguing it discriminates against low-income former prisoners who could not come up with the money to pay the obligations and was thus unconstitutional. 

The ACLU said in a statement that Tuesday’s ruling was a sign that state Republicans should forgo further legal challenges and allow the amendment to take hold as written. 

"The three-judge panel unanimously ruled that a person's right to vote cannot be contingent on their ability to pay, and the full Eleventh Circuit unanimously declined to reconsider the panel's decision," said Daniel Tilley, legal director for the ACLU of Florida. "It is time for the state to give up on its quest to dismantle Amendment 4."