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Judge rules against Florida on felons paying fines to vote

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(AP Photo/Phil Sears)

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled against a Florida law requiring felons to pay legal fees as part of their sentences before regaining the right to vote.

The judge called the Florida rules a “pay to vote” system that are unconstitutional when applied to felons “who are otherwise eligible to vote but are genuinely unable to pay the required amount.”

The 125-page ruling involves a state law to implement a 2016 ballot measure approved by voters to automatically restore the right to vote for many felons who have completed their sentence. The Republican-led Legislature stipulated that fines and legal fees must be paid as part of the sentence, in addition to serving any prison time.

However, Hinkle said that he is unlikely to have the last word in the case, expecting the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to launch an appeal.

The 2018 ballot measure, known as Amendment 4, does not apply to convicted murderers and rapists, who are permanently barred from voting regardless of financial obligations.