As the lawmakers surely knew when they wrote the law, they would be re-disenfranchising a large number of people who just had their rights restored. Only about one in five Floridians with criminal records have fully paid their financial obligations, according to an estimate by an expert in voting and elections at the University of Florida, who analyzed data from 48 of Florida’s 67 counties. (The estimate is included in a brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has joined with several other voting-rights groups in suing the state over the new law.) That number is no surprise: People convicted of crimes are more likely to be poor. Fines and fees can often run into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, but for many, even a debt of a few hundred dollars is more than they can manage, a problem that’s compounded by the fact that it’s difficult to get a job when you have a criminal record. In other words, the state is telling people they’re too poor to vote.
This once was known as a poll tax, which Southern states like Florida used in the later 19th century and well into the 20th century to keep their newly freed but still impoverished black citizens from voting. Poll taxes were popular because they were effective. By 1940, only 3 percent of black people in Florida were registered to vote. The practice was finally banned in 1964, by the 24th Amendment.
The expert is Dan Smith and his report is here.