Florida Governor Ron DeSantis asks high court to rule on felon voting

Governor Ron DeSantis said he loves his job as Governor. (MGN)
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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
August 12, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Governor Ron DeSantis is invoking a rarely used power, asking the state Supreme Court whether the voter approved restoration of voting rights also includes the payment of all fines, fees, and restitution.

The request may be an effort to short circuit a federal lawsuit.

In a four page letter, the governor is asking the Supreme Court whether it believes the voter approved amendment restoring a felons right to vote also requires paying all fines, fees, and other financial obligations.

It’s a question justices themselves asked of sponsor Jon Mills when deciding if the amendment could go on the ballot back in March of 2017.

“All matters. Anything a judge puts in a sentence,” Mills told the court.

“So it would also include the full payment of any fines?” Asked Justice Ricky Polston, to which Mills replied: “Yes sir.”

Clemency attorney Reggie Garcia is quick to point out the implementing law allows felons to ask a judge and state attorney: “To either waive these financial obligations completely, or convert them to community service,” said Garcia.

The ACLU and the League of Women Voters are challenging the amendments implementing law in Federal Court. They say in part it violates the 24th amendment, which prohibits a poll tax.

With a federal lawsuit already filed, some believe the governor’s letter asking for an opinion is an attempt to get a state court, the Supreme Court, to make a decision before a federal court rules.

Human Rights Attorney and FSU Law Professor Mark Schlakman thinks having a state court rule on a state constitutional question is a good idea.

“One might surmise that if any entity is to interpret the Florida Constitution as a result of the amendment becoming affective, that that authority should be the Florida Supreme Court” says Schlakman.

The request for the courts opinion is rare: Governors have asked the court for advice just eight times since 1989.

And the last time the court was asked for an opinion was in 2010 by then Governor Charlie Crist. It had to do with the Governor’s authority to fill vacancies in the judiciary.

By: Associated Press
August 11, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Governor Ron DeSantis is asking Florida's high court to rule on whether convicted felons must pay all fines and fees before getting their voting rights restored in a move that competes with ongoing litigation in federal court on that same question.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday asked the Florida Supreme Court justices to issue an opinion on whether felons must pay all fines and fees before they are eligible to register to vote.

Last year, Florida voters approved Amendment 4, restoring voting rights for felons other than convicted murderers and sex offenders.

In response, the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature passed a bill this spring that requires felons to pay all fines and fees before their voting rights are restored.

Amendment 4 supporters are challenging the new law in federal court.

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