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Appeals court: Ex-felons shouldn't have to pay fines to vote in Florida

A full trial on the lawsuit is scheduled to take place in April. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
A full trial on the lawsuit is scheduled to take place in April. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a lower court's temporary injunction against a Florida law preventing former felons from voting if they are unable to pay court-ordered fines and fees.

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said that while the state can request former felons to pay their fines, they can't bar anyone from voting if they're unable to pay.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center, which supported the plaintiffs in the case, said the ruling affirmed that a person's right to vote shouldn't be conditioned on wealth.

"Low-income black women are disproportionately impacted by this law, and we will continue to fight on behalf of our clients and all Floridians who have been unconstitutionally denied their right to vote," said Nancy Abudu, SPLC's deputy legal director of voting rights.

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"We look forward to a trial in April to enter into the record additional evidence establishing the unconstitutionality of Florida lawmakers' poll tax."

Helen Ferre, Gov. Ron DeSantis' communications director, said his office is going to seek a review by the full appeals court.

"We disagree with the ruling," she said.

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In October, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in the Northern District of Florida temporarily blocked the Florida law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier in the year. That law said that only felons who had paid all fines, fees and restitution could register to vote, impacting up to 800,000 people.

The law came after Floridians voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to more than 1.4 million people who were convicted felons.

The preliminary injunction allowed former felons to proceed with registering to vote before the full trial on the lawsuit, which is scheduled to be held in April.

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