Civil liberties advocates celebrated after a federal court on Sunday struck down as unconstitutional a Florida law that would have denied the right to vote to nearly a million recently enfranchised state residents with past felony convictions until they paid all outstanding legal fees, fines, and restitution.
After Florida voters in November 2018 overwhelming backed Amendment 4—a ballot initiative that restored the voting rights of Floridians who have fully completed their sentences for felony convictions other than murder or sex crimes—state lawmakers passed legislation that critics condemned as a “modern day poll tax.”
U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee concluded (pdf) Sunday that making voting rights contingent on payment for criminal justice services that a state must or chooses to provide represented “a tax by any other name” and violated the U.S. Constitution’s 24th Amendment and the National Voter Registration Act.
Rights groups that challenged the Florida law—which was pushed through by Republican state lawmakers and signed by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis in June 2019—welcomed Hinkle’s permanent injunction against SB7066 as “a watershed moment in election law” and “a powerful reminder that no one can trump the U.S. Constitution…”