A federal judge on Sunday ruled that a Florida law that restricts felons from voting if they cannot pay court fines and fees is an unconstitutional “pay-to-vote system.” The ruling could allow thousands of people to vote but is expected to be swiftly appealed. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled in favor of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed last year shortly after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the restrictions into law, barring Florida felons from the ballot box unless they resolve their financial obligations.
“The Twenty-Fourth Amendment precludes Florida from conditioning voting in federal elections on payment of these fees and costs,” Hinkle wrote in his order, noting that “every Florida felony conviction results in an order to pay hundreds of dollars in fees and costs intended to fund the government.” Hinkle also stressed that there is no system in place that keeps track or informs Florida felons of how much they owe. “This ruling means hundreds of thousands of Floridians will be able to rejoin the electorate and participate in upcoming elections,” said Julie Ebenstein, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU. “This is a tremendous victory for voting rights.”