Public split on whether felons should pay fines in order to vote, new poll says

People march in Jacksonville to support Amendment 4 last fall. Florida Rights Restoration Coalition photo.

Floridians are divided almost evenly when it comes to the issue of whether felons need to pay  fines, fees or restitution before getting the right to vote.

That’s according to a new Quinnipiac poll of 1,279 Florida voters conducted between June 12-17.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to soon sign the bill that implements Amendment 4, the 2018 constitutional amendment voters approved to restore voting rights to felons in Florida.

The bill is controversial because GOP lawmakers passed legislation requiring felons to pay any fines, fees or restitution owed before getting back the right to vote. Supporters of the amendment said that it was “self-implementing,” and didn’t need lawmakers to add any additional barriers to the measure, which passed with more than 5 million votes and 64 percent of Floridians last November.

Proponents of the idea said it was a matter of fairness to crime victims. Opponents countered that 41 other states allow felons to vote after they complete their sentences without having to pay any fines, fees or restitution.

The Florida legislation does allow felons to petition a judge to waive those fees, fines or convert them to community service hours. If a felon owes restitution to a victim, the victim has to approve any legal decision that waives the fees or converts it to community service hours.

According to the new poll, 45 percent of Floridians support the payment requirement, with 47 percent opposed. Men support the measure 50 percent to 43 percent, while women are opposed 49 percent to 41 percent.

The poll found that white voters support requiring payment before voting by a 51 percent to 42 percent margin, while black voters are opposed, 61 percent to 37 percent. Hispanic voters are also against, with 40 percent in support and 51 percent in opposition.

The Quinnipiac poll also surveyed Floridians on three proposed constitutional amendments that may appear on the 2020 ballot, which need 60 percent support for approval.

On the issue of raising the minimum wage to $15, an overwhelming 76 percent support the measure, with just 20 percent in opposition.

On legalizing recreational marijuana, Quinnipiac says that by a 65 percent to 30 percent margin, Floridians support allowing adults to legally possess “small amounts” of marijuana for personal use.

And on the issue of banning assault weapons, 59 percent support the concept, and 36 percent oppose it.

Floridians also oppose allowing trained teachers and school officials to carry guns on school grounds by a margin of  57 percent to 37 percent. That controversial measure was passed by the Legislature earlier this spring.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

1 COMMENT

  1. Did the wording of the actual constitutional amendment we voted on state “voting rights would be restored on completion of the sentence”, or did it also include the wording related to “paying fines, fees, and restitution”?

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