Eleventh Circuit Rules Florida Amendment 4 Meant What It Said.

In 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 4 by a “super-majority” of 64.57%.

The amendment provides that “any disqualification from voting arising from a felony conviction shall terminate and voting rights shall be restored upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation.”

Immediately after its passage, the Florida legislature passed a bill delineating what the “terms of sentence” means, including any fines, fees and restitution a convicted criminal may owe.

The “fines, fees, and restitution” caused an uproar as some people likened it to a “poll tax.” After all, they said, “what happens if the person can’t pay?

(Maybe they should have considered that before committing the felony?)

The State of Florida was sued by several felons to eliminate the payment of the legal financial obligations, (LFO’s,) alleging that the reenfranchisement laws violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Twenty-Fourth Amendment. The District Court said the plaintiffs had a good chance of winning based on the basis of the Equal Protection Clause in that some felons could afford to pay the LFO’s and vote, and some could not thereby excluding them from voting.

(We never understood that thinking. To us it was the same as saying a store could be sued because one person could afford a PlayStation but another could not.)

The District Court issued an injunction prohibiting the State from implementing the LFO part of the law.

The State appealed that ruling and the Florida Supreme Court ruled there was no violation and removed the injunction.

The plaintiffs appealed that to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals where a three member panel over-ruled the Florida Supreme Court saying the injunction could stand.

The State then appealed that ruling to the full Court of Appeals.

Yesterday the Court issued it’s opinion which said there is no violation of the Constitution, the injunction is lifted, and Florida can proceed.

The opinion is lengthy, to say the least. It’s 200 pages for everything including a 103 page dissent. It’s been a long time since we have seen a dissent that is longer than the majority opinion.

The bottom line is that to vote, felons must satisfy all conditions of their release, including payment of the LFO’s, which is what we believe voters intended.

It’s the weekend, so stretch out, grab an adult beverage (such as a Dr Pepper) and read how the Court came to say that Amendment 4 meant what it said when the voters passed it.

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