The Phoenix Flyer

Only 7 states require felons to pay all fines, fees and restitution to be able to vote. Florida is the 8th

By: - July 9, 2019 3:56 pm

(Clark County Election Department photo)

In the strict rules that give voting rights back to felons, Florida isn’t alone — but not by much.

A new analysis performed by the National Conference of State Legislatures lists just seven other states in the country that require felons to pay fines, fees and restitution to be able to regain their right to vote.

Those seven states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Connecticut, Tennessee, and Washington, according to the analysis.

Florida now joins that crowd.

Voters overwhelmingly approved constitutional Amendment 4 last fall, which said that all felons (with some exceptions) would automatically get their voting rights restored once they had completed their sentences.

But legislation signed last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis requires that felons pay all fines, fees or restitution to get their voting rights back. That means the process isn’t automatic, and the issue has spawned several federal lawsuits.

Most of the other seven states include the same provisions as Florida’s law, regarding fines, fees and restitution. Tennessee also prohibits a person from applying for a voter registration card unless he or she is “current in all child support obligations.”

In Washington state, the sentencing court “may revoke” the restoration of voting rights if that court determines that a person has “willfully failed” to comply with the terms of his or her order to pay legal financial obligations, or if the person has failed to make three payments in a twelve-month period.

Washington law also says that if the court revokes the restoration of voting rights, they can only be restored if “the person shows that he or she has made a good faith effort to pay.”

The Amendment 4 legislation signed by DeSantis does allow felons to petition a judge to waive fees or fines or convert them to community hours. If the felon owes restitution, the victim must approve allowing a judge to waive the money or have it converted to community hours.

Several groups are now suing the state in federal court, claiming that requiring returning citizens to pay back their fines, fees or restitution amounts to a “poll tax.”

However, the leading advocate group for Amendment 4, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, had said at one point on their website that fees, fines and restitution were included as part of completion of a sentence. But the group has since retreated on that stance.

In addition to the seven states that require fees, fines or restitution, there are three states that remain tougher than Florida for felons to get their right to vote restored with the passage of Amendment 4.

Kentucky has a lifetime ban in place – meaning a felon loses his or her right to vote forever. Iowa and Virginia also impose lifetime bans on felons from voting, but felons in both of those states can attempt to regain their right to vote by applying to the Office of the Governor.


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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.