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Jacquet, Al (state representative)

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Al Jacquet wants ‘full payment’ language deleted from Amendment 4 law

“We must return the eligibility to vote to Floridians who have made mistakes.”

Democrats were outraged last Session over a bill implementing Amendment 4, the constitutional change restoring voting rights to ex-cons.

That’s because lawmakers passed and Gov. Ron DeSantis OK’d legislation requiring felons to pay all fines and fees before regaining their right to vote.

Now, Rep. Al Jacquet has filed a bill (HB 6007) for the 2020 Session that would “remove (the) language requiring full payment of certain fines and fees.”

“This year, a law was enacted to restrict voting eligibility of those Floridians who had been re-enfranchised by Amendment 4,” Jacquet said in a Tuesday statement on the bill.

“The strategy excluded the input of the very citizens that asked for this and redefined the term of sentence to include restitution, court fees, monetary damages and other fines.”

Amendment 4 was approved by Florida voters in November 2018. It allowed returning citizens to have their voting rights restored “upon completion of their sentences.”

At issue was what constituted “completion.”

To help define that, the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature passed a law stating that merely completing a prison term was not enough.

Instead, individuals would also be required to pay fines, fees and restitution, if any ordered — unless a court was willing to waive or restructure those terms.

Jacquet says the effect of the new law will be felt disproportionately among minorities and low-income individuals.

“Unfortunately, the demographic breakdown of those who lose their voting rights shows obvious racial disparities and income inequality,” Jacquet said. “Intentional or otherwise, the consequence of this provision is an indirect measure used to exclude people of a particular race or socioeconomic status, thereby disenfranchising these people.”

As a result, several Democrats dubbed the measure a “poll tax.” But supporters of the implementing legislation point to testimony from the amendment’s original backers, stating that repayment of fine would in fact be a necessary part of “completing” a person’s sentence.

Under Jacquet’s bill, individuals would still be required to pay restitution before regaining the right to vote.

According to the bill’s language, those payments “include only the amount specifically ordered by the court as part of the sentence and do not include any fines, fees, or costs that accrue after the date the obligation is ordered as a part of the sentence.”

Despite that testimony cited by Republican lawmakers, Jacquet argues requiring full payment is too high a burden.

“For many who completed their terms of incarceration, probation and parole, this could mean obtaining a lawyer to figure out the costs, finding sufficient employment, saving their hard-earned money to pay all at once and then maybe being able to register to vote in their lifetime,” Jacquet said.

“This was not the intent of the amendment. We must return the eligibility to vote to Floridians who have made mistakes, served their time, and paid their full debt to society.”

As it stands, some counties are attempting to work around the existing requirement. The 2019 bill did provide an out, allowing courts to provide relief to people unable to pay the fines and fees.

Miami-Dade County introduce a plan at the end of July that would provide a fast-track docket to help individuals apply for a waiver of the fees for the purpose of registering to vote.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Cogent Observer

    August 13, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Al–Relax.
    Their “mistake” was a crime. Don’t try to minimize it for votes or for any other reason. Doubtless, you’d feel differently if the “mistake” were committed on you or your family.
    Crimes have statutory punishments. They include, in certain circumstances, jail, the payment of restitution, fines, and court costs, some of which accrue before, and some after sentencing and being released from jail. And yes, the loss of voting rights. The perpetrator should have considered all of that before committing the felony.
    It’s not a “poll tax.” It results from not acting civilized in a society.

  2. gary

    August 13, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time, that includes restitution and fines!

  3. Taylor

    August 14, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    I’d like anyone who opposes Amendment 4 to make a mistake today, and be haunted by it forever. That includes being severely limited in job and housing choices, and to be restricted from voting which is a birthright of EVERY U.S. citizen, contrary to Republicans’ notion of government.

    Most of the people affected by the GOP’s adverse actions are non-violent people. Some are convicted of crimes that many jurisdictions no longer even prosecute and have determined to be of a civil rather than criminal nature (worthless checks).

    Furthermore, at what point is a debt to society actually paid? If the punishment should fit the crime, then by all means justify how someone who drove on a suspended driver license in 1994 should lose their voting rights forever?

    That isn’t reasonable, fair or democratic. In fact, the only purpose behind opposition to Amendment 4–supported by more than 60% of voters, pulling in higher voting numbers than EVERY Republican on the 2018 ticket–is to ensure continued GOP control of state government, AND to help Trump win Florida next year. No one is fooled by it.

    Hopefully, the courts will soon settle this issue and expose the GOP’s deliberate abuse of power and subversion of democracy for what it is: a scam perpetrated against Florida’s voters.

    • Tracy

      August 15, 2019 at 9:17 am

      What you wrote was inspiring, and with great intellect. Until you unleashed the ugliness of voters being fooled. This amendment was only to secure that someone can vote if they only committed a non violent felony. No underline alternate agendas! T

  4. Ms. Kitty

    August 14, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Republicans in the legislature should be ashamed of themselves. This is such a corrupt and flagrant avoidance of doing what is right, which is what people across this state voted for.

    Its an awful reality that Florida is now the only state in America to have such draconian laws on the books. And this so-called implementation doesn’t fight crime, it only serves to subjugate and permanently penalize people who deserve to have their rights restored.

  5. Bill

    August 14, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    Will crime be reduced if an ex-felon is denied his/her right to vote? Will our economy grow if felons are denied the right to vote? Of course not.

    This is a purely political farce that Republicans are engaging in and its an absolute disgrace.

    The voters spoke loudly and clearly. How on Earth was “implementation” needed when voters made clear their intent?

    An absolute disgrace.

  6. Cogent Observer

    August 14, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    Taylor–Your comment is nicely written. However, it is based upon some inaccurate presumptions and some basic misunderstanding on your part.

    First, the loss of voting rights applies to people who have been convicted or pled guilty to felonies. Felonies are considered by the law to be the most serious kind of crime, regardless of how you perceive them.

    Second, legislatures (comprised of Democrats and Republicans)determine the level of severity of criminal acts. By that determination, it is categorized as a felony, a misdemeanor, or a non-criminal violation.
    You cite a worthless check violation. Statutes (enacted by Democrat and Republican legislatures) classify violations of the worthless check statute as either a misdemeanor or a felony based upon the amount of the check. One convicted of a felony worthless check violation would be subject to the statutory penalty–and if at the felony level, loss of voting rights. The sentence would include the payment of court costs and restitution to the person or entity to whom/which the check was passed. The sentence would not be considered complete until all elements of it were satisfied.

    Similarly, you cite driving on a suspended license as resulting in a penalty involving loss of voting rights. No, Taylor, it doesn’t-standing alone- result on loss of voting rights. Under some circumstances, it may result in the loss of the right to drive for a period of time and the imposition of a fine or court costs–but not the loss of voting rights. That happens with felonies-the most serious kinds of crimes.

    As I explained, the sentence imposed for virtually all violations of the law will impose fines and court costs. Satisfaction of the sentence is not complete unless there has been compliance with all elements of it. Really, it is not a hard concept to understand. Unless for political or similarly irrelevant reasons one chooses not to understand it.

    • Taylor

      August 15, 2019 at 11:41 am

      Cogent Observer:

      Clearly, you came up woefully short in pointing out my supposed “inaccurate presumptions”. No one is debating whether or not a criminal act should be a misdemeanor or a felony; however, let’s examine your argument. The Legislature recently raised the ceiling for a grand theft charge to be prosecuted as a felony. That means, one year ago yesterday, someone who stole an item valued at $301 could face felony charges and possibly a felony conviction.

      A year from now, that same person would only face a misdemeanor for that crime.

      That is important because it vividly undermines whatever point you were attempting to make. The Legislature made that change without any retroactive underpinnings. That means there are people in Florida who have felony convictions for a crime that is now a misdemeanor. Do you see the point here? What about their rights?

      Voters in 2018 understood that restoring the right to vote should not be complicated. Only in Florida is this such a controversial issue and that’s because of one thing: the Legislature intervening and subverting the will of the people, and so very needlessly so.

      At the end of the day, I think most Floridians assume completion of sentence to be the physical act of walking out of a jail or prison, or the finalization of a probation term. I refuse to believe anyone realistically thinks that repayment of hordes of dollars in overblown fees is fair or reasonable for folks who often and fresh out of jail and can barely find work.

      Please do not misstate fact: The point that is in contention is whether or not all fines and fees being paid to recover voting rights is constitutional, or even legal. That issue is at the center of the pending litigation.

      You may recall that prior to the GOP Legislature “implementing” Amendment 4, NO ONE who had his or her rights restored prior to 2019 was required to pay any monies to get those rights back. Do you see the irony?

      Time has shown that the successful reintegration of ex-prisoners is effective and worthwhile. In 2019, it makes no sense whatsoever to eternally punish anyone for the most minor of violations INCLUDING passing a bad check or driving on a bad license, which THOUSANDS of Floridians are now banned from voting as a result of convictions on such charges. These are folks who work and pay taxes, and should be able to vote as well.

      Look, you are entitled to your beliefs. However, more than 60% of the voters spoke loudly and clearly last year, so you are clearly in the minority on this issue. It is not the job of the Legislature to circumvent the will of the People. This move to stifle Amendment 4 is an absurd abuse of power and ANYONE who supports democracy should be appalled.

      • Kelly In Neptune

        August 15, 2019 at 11:45 am

        AMEN, and very well put.

  7. Jan

    August 15, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    The language of Amend. 4 states, “No. 4 Constitutional Amendment Article VI, Section 4. Voting Restoration Amendment: This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.”
    The word, terms, refers to more than just the “term” (length) of the sentence–the definition of the word “terms” means the conditions of any agreement, and in the case of adjudication–court costs, penalties, fines, restitution, etc., which were in the formal judgement.

  8. Cogent Observer

    August 15, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    Yes, Jan. Succinct and accurate. Ideally, your comment will be understandable by all other followers of the issue and commenters on the article.

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