Felons voting in the 2020 Florida Primary


Jadon Khor, Editor-in-Chief

 Monday held the first to what is sure to be a long line of federal trials in Florida over the felon’s right to vote. With the 2020 election coming in November, Republicans and Democrats have been scrambling to gain advantages in their campaigns ever since 2016 and 2018, be that fundraising, politicizing and debating. But in Florida, felon voter suppression has recently made headlines.

   In 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 4, which gave voting rights back to felons, except for those committed for grave crimes, such as rape or murder. However, the Florida Legislature passed a law soon afterward making it so that felons have to pay back fines, restitutions and other legal financial obligations before they can vote. The passing of this law sparked an outcry from civil rights groups and felons alike, prompting a mass class-action suit against the law.

   This issue is made even more pressing since there are 1 million felons who were expected to vote in 2020, but now a majority are losing out on this privilege. It is being argued by the plaintiffs that the law disproportionately affects poor constituents and black voters from being able to participate. With 1 million new voters being added to the electorate pool, Florida’s status as one of the most important swing states is inflated more so.

   The law is also scrutinized for its comparison to a poll tax, a practice used previously to the Civil Rights Movement in an effort to stop minorities and poor Americans from going to elections. However, the defendants of the law have compared the law to various others across the country that set other restrictions on felon voting rights. 

   U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who presided over the Monday trial, previously issued an injunction in October and was also upheld by a three-judge panel in the 11th Circuit in January. In March, the court declined to hear further appeals backed by Governor Ron DeSantis. 

   An attorney for DeSantis argued that the Amendment only restored voting rights to felons only if they completed their terms of the sentence, a notion supported by the Florida Supreme Court in January. However, this has not stipulated enough evidence for full backing from the federal courts. 

   After Monday’s virtual trial, a final result is near to impossible in being delivered before the November election, because the losing side is heavily expected to appeal further.