Felony disenfranchisement has remained a longstanding practice in the United States, utilized by nearly every state in the Union to punish those convicted of a felony with a bar from the franchise. However, when individuals attempt to re-obtain their voting rights, individual state restoration systems vary immensely, with some providing automatic restoration following incarceration and others requiring payment of legal financial obligations, such as fines or restitution. In the wake of a constitutional amendment to provide automatic restoration, the Florida legislature proposed a new system in SB 7066, aimed at curbing the effects of the amendment. Now signed into law, this new scheme disallows restoration until the individual has fully paid all fines, fees, and restitution associated with their sentence. It has since been challenged and was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit in Jones v. Governor of Florida.
This Comment explores the Eleventh Circuit decision in Jones, positing that the majority came to an erroneous conclusion by both employing the wrong classification and wrongfully applying its precedent. Accordingly, noticing the disastrous effects of these deficiencies in Jones, this Comment argues for a new path forward in judicial review of payment-based restoration laws, uniting the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on wealth discrimination both within the criminal justice system and within access to the franchise. Such a union should require heightened scrutiny for all laws seeking to provide criminal punishments based on one’s inability to pay due to the law’s intent to criminalize poverty, especially when such punishments deprive an individual of a right as fundamental as the one to vote.
Punishment Only for the Poor: The Unconstitutionality of Pay-to-Vote Disenfranchisement Laws,
Emory L. J.
Available at: https://scholarlycommons.law.emory.edu/elj/vol71/iss2/5