As Amendment 4, or the law permitting former felons to vote, is still being decided in Tallahassee, Palm Beach County officials announced on Thursday they are working with the current version of the bill to help restore those voting rights.
“We do not want people to be deprived of the right to vote because they cannot afford to pay their court costs and fees,” says Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.
The law, as it stands, requires Florida’s nearly 1.4 million felons to complete their full prison sentences and pay associated costs and fees before having their voting rights restored.
Critics have called it “a poll tax” that only serves to keep ex-felons from voicing their opinions.
Palm Beach County officials cite recent rule changes that allow them to help ex-felons return to the voting booth. One of those changes entails a new process that was implemented in Palm Beach County courts two months ago and is effective for all future cases. It separates court fees from the sentencing docket, in essence putting the person on a payment plan so they may vote again immediately.
Aronberg adds, “Our pathway is not to remove the fines and fees — they would still be obligated to pay the fines and fees. But the costs and fees would be separated from their sentence.”
Each former felon would need to file an “agreed upon motion” with the public defender’s office in order to retroactively change their individual sentence docket.
Miami-Dade County also separates court fees from the sentence docket.