Statement to be attributed to Chiraag Bains, Director of Legal Strategies, Demos:
By enacting SB 7066, the Florida legislature has created two classes of returning citizens: those who can afford to reclaim their voting rights, and those who cannot.
Voting is a fundamental right, but today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis turned his back on the will of the people by signing a bill that will deny hundreds of thousands of returning citizens the right to vote because they cannot afford to pay fines, court fees, and other financial obligations. This restriction contradicts longstanding Supreme Court precedent that prohibits punishing people for their poverty or conditioning voting on the payment of a fee. It will undoubtedly hit communities of color the hardest.
Amendment 4, which automatically restored voting rights to people with felony convictions upon completion of sentence, got over 1.1 million more votes in November 2018 than any candidate on the ballot. Florida voters intended to bring 1.4 million Floridians back into the political community. Today’s move severely undercuts Amendment 4. By enacting SB 7066, the Florida legislature has created two classes of returning citizens: those who can afford to reclaim their voting rights, and those who cannot. In the Florida legal system, the deck is already stacked against low-income people and people of color. SB 7066 will further undermine the right to democratic participation for these individuals and will price untold numbers of Floridians out of the voting booth.
When nearly 65 percent of Florida voters supported Amendment 4, they stood up for a democracy where everyone can participate and have their voice heard. Demos was proud to stand with organizations like the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition that have been working to re-enfranchise Floridians and to include returning citizens in the political process. Amendment 4 was set to be the largest expansion of voting rights in a half-century, and it would have brought the U.S. closer to the promise of full democracy and equal civic participation. Demos will continue to work with partner groups to fight for people in Florida and across the country whose right to vote is under attack.