Felons voting rights ruling creates new confusion for elections supervisors

Lack of funds can't hold voter registration back. (WJHG)
Lack of funds can't hold voter registration back. (WJHG)(WJHG)
Published: Oct. 21, 2019 at 10:24 PM CDT
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A federal judge has temporarily blocked part of a law that requires felons to pay all fines, fees, and restitution before they have their voting rights restored. But, it's only for those who are too poor to pay.

The ruling puts pressure on lawmakers to fix the law in the upcoming legislative session, but some say the ruling has made an already complicated situation even worse.

State Senator Jeff Brandes sponsored the 2019 bill that mandated the payment requirements.

"I'm concerned that they read into that, that somehow that language only includes certain people. So it seems to say everything is included, for certain classes, for certain people,” said Brandes.

The ruling specifically applies to 17 plaintiffs named in the case, but it likely applies to all felons unable to pay.

One of the plaintiffs is from Leon county, but Local Elections Supervisor Mark Earley told us he’s still not sure if he can register them yet.

“I don't know what his ability or inability to pay those fines and fees are,” said Earley.

Election supervisors like Earley are concerned about moving forward because there’s no standard to determine whether someone can’t pay.

“This ambiguity as to ability to pay is going to be a very tough hurdle,” said Earley.

Earley hopes lawmakers heed the concerns laid out in the judge’s order and act fast.

However, Senator Brandes said lawmakers' hands are tied until another challenge to the law is decided by the State Supreme Court.

“I think we need to wait for the Supreme Court to do something and to rule before we can make any further progress. I that we're in this really interesting time right now between court rulings,” said Brandes.

The ruling only blocks the law until a final decision is made in the case.

It’s set to go to trial in April.

While lawmakers and the courts work to hammer out the problems with felons voting rights restoration, elections supervisors have maintained that if you believe you are eligible to register you should.