I wanted to give a quick update to a post that I wrote last year about Florida’s Amendment 4, you can read the post here,Florida’s Amendment 4 and Jim-Crow Tactics. In the 2018 midterm elections, Florida voters voted overwhelmingly to restore the voting rights of over a million formerly incarcerated felons.
Ever since that historic vote, the state legislature has done everything in its power to prevent Amendment 4 from going into effect. Last summer they mandated that before felons can vote they have to first pay off any legal fees and debts that they have incurred while they were in prison. As many of us know it is incredibly hard to find a good-paying job once you have a prison record and interest accrues on any debts that you had before you were incarcerated.
Last week, Florida’s Supreme Court upheld this law by arguing that “all terms of punishment” include not just time served, but also any fines or financial obligations that were tied to their punishment. The debt that felons would have to pay back to the State would collectively be well over a billion dollars.
If something doesn’t sit right with you about forcing anyone to pay back debts before they can vote it’s because it sounds like a poll tax which was a tactic used to keep people of color from voting during the Jim Crow era. This law will disproportionately affect people of color, particularly men, who are incarcerated at a higher rate.
It’s astonishing to me that as we start 2020 we are still fighting the same fight from the 1800s. I know many people who are over voting and don’t believe that it makes a difference. I would argue that if we have been fighting for this right for over a hundred years and are still receiving opposition then it must be even more important than we realize. No one fights over a right that isn’t worth it.