State Supreme Court to hear felons’ rights dispute

Supreme Court
CHRIS URSO/TAMPA BAY TIMES/TNS
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked the Florida Supreme Court’s opinion on whether felons must pay all fines, fees and restitution before getting their voting rights restored.

NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to take up a request by Gov. Ron DeSantis to consider whether a state law properly carries out a constitutional amendment granting voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.

DeSantis this month asked the court to weigh in on the law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature during the spring legislative session. The law requires people convicted of felonies to pay financial obligations before they can regain the right to vote.

The measure was intended to implement a November constitutional amendment that granted restoration of voting rights to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.” The amendment excluded people “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.”

Voting-rights groups and civil-rights advocates have challenged the law in federal court, but DeSantis sought guidance from the state’s high court on whether the statute’s provision requiring payment of “financial obligations” – such as restitution, fines and fees – runs afoul of the amendment.

On Thursday, the court said it “will exercise its discretion to provide an opinion in response to the governor’s request” and laid out deadlines for the parties to submit briefs. “Interested parties” have until Sept. 18 to submit initial briefs, and reply briefs are due by Oct. 3.

The court also set oral arguments in the case for Nov. 6.

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