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Poll: Floridians divided over forcing ex-felons to pay fines, restitution before they can vote

Anthony Man, Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Florida voters are divided over one of the most controversial issues emanating from the annual legislative session: requiring felons who have served their prison sentences to also pay court-ordered restitution and fines before they regain the right to vote.

A Florida Atlantic University Poll released Wednesday found 48% of registered voters support the repayment requirement, with 34% opposed and 19% undecided.

The overall number masks major differences based on political affiliation.

-- Democrats -- 39% supported requiring the payment before voting rights are restored, 46% were opposed, and 16% undecided.

-- Republicans -- 68% supported repayment, 19% were opposed and 13% undecided.

-- Independent/no party affiliation voters -- 34% supported repayment, 36% were opposed and 30% undecided.

Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn't acted on the measure, but has said he would sign it. The legislation sets state policy for implementing Amendment 4, a change to the Florida Constitution approved last year by 65% of Florida voters. It orders restoration of voting rights for felons -- except murderers and sex offenders -- who have served their sentences.

The implementation has sparked a furious battle between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans passed the requirement for repayment of court-ordered restitution and fines. Democrats said that amounts to a "poll tax" that links paying money to get voting rights.

The amendment was aimed at ending Florida's previous policy -- a lifetime ban on voting for people convicted of felonies unless they went through a lengthy, often futile, process of requesting clemency from the Florida Cabinet.

 

Under the implementation legislation someone with a felony conviction could either pay off the financial obligation in full, have it waived by the court or individual to which it is owed, or have it converted into community service. But the exact methods by which the latter two could happen were not spelled out.

It's unclear how many of approximately 1.4 million former felons would be affected.

This was what the FAU Business and Economics Polling Initiative asked: "Do you support or oppose a measure that would require repayment of financial obligations before a felon's voting rights are restored?"

The poll was conducted online and through automated calls to people with landline telephones from Thursday through Sunday. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Breakdowns for smaller groups, such as Democrats, Republicans and breakdowns by age, have higher margins of error.

(c)2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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