Florida lawmakers say they’ve settled on a way to implement Amendment 4 that requires felons to pay all court fees, fines and restitution before voting, but allows judges to waive those costs or convert them into community service hours.
The agreement between the House and Senate, reached Thursday night and near the end of Florida’s legislative session, provides an unclear path for felons with financial obligations to vote.
But the bill could prevent tens of thousands of felons — or more — from voting while creating an unequal system across the state for restoring their voting rights.
The deal will go to a vote on Friday, the last full day of the legislative session….
But the idea was criticized by former Miami-Dade circuit court judge Stanford Blake, who called the Legislature’s attempts to implement Amendment 4 a “fiasco.”
Should the state give judges broader discretion to alter sentences, Blake wondered if that might put a strain on the courts.
“If you have potentially 1.5 million people [seeking changes to their sentence], is that going to create such a backlog that each court would have to designate a judge to hear all the applications for a waiver?” Blake said. “And is that really the intent of Amendment 4 being carried?”
In November, nearly 65 percent of voters approved Amendment 4, which was supposed to restore the right to vote to more than a million felons.