Florida Legislature Attempting to Turn Back the Clock on Voting Rights

May 6, 2019

Brennan Center calls for governor to reject curtailments of Amendment 4, reaffirm will of Floridians to protect voting rights

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Derek Rosenfeld; derek.rosenfeld@nyu.edu; 646 292 8381
Stephen Fee; stephen.fee@nyu.edu; 202 309 8892

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law today announced its strong opposition to a Florida bill that would undermine the impact of Amendment 4, the historic constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters in 2018 that restored voting rights to more than a million people. The bill, passed by the legislature on Friday, would operate as a modern-day poll tax and thwart the will of voters who voted in favor of the most sweeping expansion of voting rights in the country since the civil rights movement.

“What Florida legislators have done is appalling,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and head of its voting rights project. “It flies in the face of the vast majority of Floridians who supported an end to the state’s draconian disenfranchisement laws. Florida had long been an outlier in depriving citizens of their right to vote, particularly people of color. This bill, if signed by the governor, would relegate Florida back to its outlier status.”

The Brennan Center helped draft the overwhelmingly popular constitutional amendment designed to restore voting rights to people with certain criminal convictions. But Florida legislators voted for a bill on Friday that would require people to pay off even fines and fees that had been converted from criminal penalties to civil obligations before regaining their rights.

“Florida is once again playing fast and loose with the constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, counsel in the Brennan Center’s democracy program. “This bill needlessly and arbitrarily over-complicates the process, and will inevitably lead to confusion and ultimately the disenfranchisement of people whom Florida’s voters overwhelmingly said deserve the right to be heard at the ballot box.”

Once the legislature presents the bill to him, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has 15 days to decide whether or not to sign it. Separately, Florida legislators have also passed a bill that would make it harder for the state’s voters to file similar citizen-led initiatives like Amendment 4 in the future.

“Governor DeSantis now has a choice in front of him: He can rebuff this sorry attempt to reverse the will of the voters and protect voting rights, or he can decide to reinstitute a modern-day poll tax. If he chooses the latter, the Brennan Center and its allies stand ready to take action,” said the Brennan Center’s Pérez.

Click here for the Brennan Center’s analysis of voter disenfranchisement laws across the country. And click here for a history of rights restoration work in Florida.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that works to reform, revitalize – and when necessary, defend – our country's systems of democracy and justice.