Florida loses a federal appeals court ruling on the state’s felon voting law

Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition at the Capitol

Update:

Terrie Rizzo, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, called for the state to move forward with the implementation of Amendment 4 that would allow felons to regain their voting rights.

“Floridians overwhelmingly voted to pass Amendment 4 over 500 days ago. Governor Ron DeSantis please do the right thing, stop the legal maneuvering, and let returning citizens register to vote,” Rizzo said in a statement on Wednesday.

Here’s the prior report:

A federal appellate court on Tuesday rejected Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request to have the court reconsider a ruling that found that Florida felons who have served their time but can’t pay outstanding financial obligations must be allowed to vote.

DeSantis had asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to hold an “en banc” or full court review of a Feb. 19 ruling by a three-judge panel on the court that upheld U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle.

Hinkle said Florida cannot prevent felons from voting if they are “genuinely unable” to pay their legal obligations related to their cases, such as court costs or fines.

The case is a challenge of a 2019 law passed by the Florida Legislature that said felons who have completed their prison time must still pay their fines and fees before they can register to vote.

Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, praised the court’s decision on Tuesday.

“Another positive outcome for voting rights in Florida,” Meade tweeted.

Meade led the 2018 citizens’ initiative – known as Amendment 4 — that was endorsed by Florida voters and sought to restore voting rights to more than 1 million former felons.

Tuesday’s ruling involved a preliminary injunction that Hinkle imposed last fall after 17 individuals challenged the 2019 law.

A broader challenge of the law will be the focus of a non-jury trial set for April 27 in Hinkle’s courtroom in Tallahassee.