With Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis poised to sign a bill that effectively imposes a poll tax on voters who have completed their felony sentences, a new analysis shows just how consequential that poll tax could be.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that between just October 2017 and September 2018, courts statewide imposed in excess of $1 billion in fines and other financial penalties for felony convictions. The GOP's bill requires citizens who have fully served their sentences to pay off not only court-ordered restitution to crime victims but also all court-related fines and fees to regain their voting rights.
The Sun-Sentinel also looked at the data available from earlier years in populous Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade Counties in Southeast Florida. Collectively, this trio is home to the greater Miami area and roughly 6.2 million people, including about a quarter of the state's voters. There, the Sun-Sentinel found that there is at least $1 billion more in outstanding payments, and even that data is incomplete (for instance, Miami-Dade's records only go back to the year 2000).
While these dollar amounts include debts owed by people who may still be incarcerated, on parole, or on probation, and thus ineligible to vote, these figures show that the outstanding total in fines and fees is staggeringly high and may be insurmountable for a significant number of voters.
Floridians voted nearly 2-to-1 in 2018 to end the lifetime ban on voting for people with felony convictions, but the GOP's poll tax is poised to keep potentially hundreds of thousands of citizens effectively disenfranchised for life because they're too poor to pay predatory fees.