Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is asking a Federal Judge for a Delay in a Lawsuit seeking to Restore Former Felons’ Voting Rights in the Battleground State. It’s the latest Chapter in a Bitter Battle that could affect the Outcome of next year’s Presidential Election.
Lawyers for the Governor and the State’s Top Election Official late Tuesday asked for the Lawsuit to be Delayed until the State Supreme Court weighs in on the recently Passed Amendment 4.
The Constitutional Amendment, which Restored Voting Rights to most Released Prisoners, Threatens to Upend the Political Landscape in Florida, a State where Elections frequently are decided on Razor-Thin Margins. President Trump’s Reelection Campaign is targeting the State as a Must-Win in 2020.
DeSantis last month asked the Seven-Member Florida Supreme Court, which includes Three Justices he Appointed, to give a Nonbinding Advisory Opinion on whether the Amendment requires Former Felons to Pay-in-Full Fines and or Fees imposed by the Court before they can be Eligible to have their Voting Rights Restored.
The Court Agreed to the Governor’s Request, but is unlikely to render its Opinion until November at the Earliest, when a Hearing is Scheduled.
The Legislation drew the Fury of Democrats and Civil Rights Groups who have Labeled it an Unconstitutional “Poll Tax.”
The State had already asked Judge Robert Hinkle of the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee to Dismiss a Lawsuit that Consolidates Several Challenges to the New Law, including Complaints filed by the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, and Former Felons seeking Voting Rights.
If Hinkle doesn’t Dismiss the Case, the State wants him to at least Delay it. “The purpose of this motion for stay is not to unduly delay these proceedings,” the Governor’s Legal Team wrote. “A fair and quick resolution to the issues raised by the plaintiffs is in Florida’s best interest.”
“A stay, like a dismissal, would promote judicial economy and federal-state comity,” the State wrote. “If the Florida Supreme Court agrees that the phrase ‘all terms of sentence‘ encompasses financial obligations imposed as part of the sentence, this might well alter the course of the pending federal proceeding, or at the least, require plaintiffs to amend their complaints.”
Both sides are Scheduled to be in Hinkle’s Court Oct. 7th to Argue whether the Law should be Blocked until the Lawsuit is Resolved.
More than 5 Million Floridians Voted in Favor of Amendment 4, which Restored Voting Rights to Offenders who have Served their Sentences as long as they had Not been Convicted of Murder or a Serious Sex Crime.
The Sentencing Project, a Nonprofit Group that Advocated for the Amendment, estimates the Change could make more than 1.4 Million People Eligible to Cast ballots in a State where a few Thousand Votes can typically Decide an Election.
There is No Official Estimate on how many Former Offenders are Affected by the New Law. No Statewide Database Exists, and Republican Legislators deliberately chose not to seek Data on the subject.
Research from University of Florida Political Science Professor Daniel Smith found that more than 80% of Released Prisoners had Outstanding Financial Obligations. His Study was based on Information retrieved from Court Clerks in 48 out of the State’s 67 Counties.
Some State Attorneys are working to help Former Felons Win back their Voting Rights. Miami-Dade Officials in July said they would Create a Legal Fast Track for Former Prisoners who have asked that their Financial Penalties be Set-Aside.
Republicans who Pushed the Law to Implement the Amendment said its Supporters had agreed with their Interpretation before the Measure was Approved by Voters. Jon Mills, a Former House Speaker and Former Dean of the University of Florida Law School, represented the Groups seeking to put the Amendment on the Ballot. In 2017, he Testified before the State Supreme Court that Fines and Restitution were considered Part of the Sentence.
Some Groups are Creating a Donation system to Pay Off the Fines and or Fees.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker