Florida on verge of blocking some ex-felons from voting. Critics call it a poll tax.

Florida on verge of blocking some ex-felons from voting. Critics call it a poll tax.
People gather around a "Yes on 4" truck as they learn about Amendment 4, at Charles Hadley Park in Miami, on Oct. 22, 2018. Amendment 4, was approved by Florida voters in November and could benefit an estimated 1.5 million former felons -- with the excep Copyright Wilfredo Lee AP file
Copyright Wilfredo Lee AP file
By Dartunorro Clark with NBC News Politics
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The legislation is on its way to the GOP governor's desk and has drawn opposition from Ocasio-Cortez and presidential candidates.


Florida lawmakers on Friday sent a bill to the governor that would require ex-felons to pay court-ordered restitution, various fees and fines before their voting rights can be restored — which critics have blasted as a "poll tax" that subverts the will of the people.

Opponents have decried the legislation after 65 percent of Floridians voted in November in favor of restoring the right to vote to felons, an estimated1.5 million people. Those who were convicted of "murder or sexual offenses" were not eligible for rights restoration.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has supported the legislation and is likely to sign it into law. A representative for his office did not return a request for comment.

Under the bill, felons are required to pay back all court fees and fines before they can register to vote. The bill also requires a local elections supervisor to verify whether a person who has been convicted of a felony offense and registers to vote has completed all the terms of his or her sentence.

Florida Democratic lawmakers excoriated their Republican colleagues for usurping the will of the voter by passing the law.

"This will actually, physically impose financial barriers against voting; I don't think that's the right solution," said Rep. Joe Geller, a Democrat, said Friday, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "Owing that money should not be related to whether or not you have a right in our system."

The law has received national attention. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called the measure a "poll tax" in a March tweet. Joe Biden called the bill "unacceptable" in a Friday tweet and said it would "create a modern-day poll tax, suppressing the vote of tens of thousands of Americans."

Rep. James Grant, a Republican, said he was thinking about Amendment 6, which also passed last year to deal with restitution for crime victims, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

"If restitution was ordered, restitution needs to be completed," he said. "Voters made it crystal clear victims have the right to receive restitution."

Desmond Meade, the executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, called the bill's passage "disappointing" in a statement on Friday.

"We call on the Governor to side with the 1.4 million returning citizens and insist for better legislation. For now, we will continue to move forward in the spirit of creating a more inclusive and vibrant democracy for all by seeking to register qualified returning citizens in Florida," he said.

The legislation passed the GOP-controlled House with a vote of 67-42. The Senate, which is also under Republican control, passed its version of the bill on Thursday with a vote of 22-17.

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