Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has promised to cripple Amendment 4 by signing Senate Bill 7066, which will require that ex-felons pay all fines and court costs before they will actually be able to vote.
The Florida Democratic Party has called DeSantis the “Jim Crow Governor” for saying he will sign the legislation against the 65 percent of Florida voters who wanted to restore voting eligibility to ex-felons when they completed their sentence in prison, including probation.
Amendment 4 only excluded those convicted of murder or a sexual offense.
Republicans choosing to interpret Amendment 4 in this way keep minorities, who are overrepresented in Florida’s prison system and as felons, boosts prospects of getting more Republicans elected since minorities tend to vote Democratic.
The move is a throwback to the Jim Crow era, when politicians also used legislation that was technically legal but obviously meant to keep minorities, especially freed Black people, from voting. This legislation included poll taxes and felon disenfranchisement.
“The Republican Party of Florida is willing to wear the mantle of passing a modern-day poll tax,” said Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Democratic Party of Florida, to the Palm Beach Post. “Gov. DeSantis is willing to be a Jim Crow governor.”
According to the Palm Beach Post, Penalosa said that the Democratic Party is considering taking legal action.
Even though the majority of Florida voters accepted Amendment 4 as it was written without Senate Bill 7066, Joe Gruters, executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, stated that the addition was the will of Florida’s residents.
“All we did was implement the will of the people. The idea that this is anything other than that is simply not the case,” Gruters told the Palm Beach Post.
But Republicans were not required to interpret the amendment the way they did.
Ex-felons have been struggling to gain voting rights back, particularly under former Governor Rick Scott. A 2018 investigation by The Palm Beach Post found that Scott restored voting rights to a disproportionately low percentage of black felons and restored voting rights to a higher percentage of Republicans and a lower percentage of Democrats than any of his predecessors since 1971.