Jennifer FrancisoArticles Editor

Over the years, there have been concerns with the voting turnout in Florida. Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights of felons who have served time, restoring “voting rights to more than 1 million felons.” However, the law also has several restrictions on voting. Some of these requirements include that voting rights will only be restored after the completion of parole or probation, and excludes individuals who have been convicted of murder or sexual assault.

One of the more concerning restrictions is requiring “felons to pay any outstanding court fines or fees before they can cast their ballots.” Florida is the state with “the second-largest number of fines, fees, and surcharges assessed anywhere in the country.” The amount of fines and fees accumulated by felons can amount to hundreds of dollars to tens of millions. This restriction places low-income people, who are struggling financially, at a disadvantage. In fact, such requirements create two groups of people; “a group wealthy enough to afford their voting rights and another group who cannot afford to vote.”

The New York Times discusses the case of Jeff Gruver, a Florida resident who after being released from prison was eager to vote for the first time. Mr. Gruver lived in a homeless shelter and was not working at the time. Mr. Gruver explained that when he went to the polling place, showed his ID, and his voter registration card, he was then told he could not vote. Mr. Gruver had accumulated $801 in court costs, and given his financial status, did not have the ability to make that payment. Essentially, a poll tax kept him from casting his vote that day.

Scholars argue that the new law affixes “a price tag to someone’s right to vote.” Similarly, civil rights groups explain that “[t]he newly enacted law would limit voting rights to convicted felons who have wealth, disenfranchising many others who cannot pay their fees.” More specifically this restriction places a burden on the African American population in Florida, who when released from prison have a difficult time accessing jobs.

“[P]ast mistakes should not define people in the future.” And given society’s concern with the voter turnout, these restrictions serve as obstacles to increasing voter turnout, more specially for low-income former felons.