Pinellas Co. collects nearly $300K in felon fees and fines, paving way for 290 people to have voting rights restored

national black voter day
The office is working to expedite ways for felons to satisfy debts.

Ken Burke, the Pinellas County Clerk and Comptroller, announced 290 people with felony convictions have contacted the Clerk, and have been able to pay the assessed fines and fees in order to restore their right to vote. 

The Pinellas County Clerk of Court Office has collected $298,629 in felon fees and fines, according to a news release, although it did not specify a span of time nor how many people contributed to that amount. The office’s announcement follows a decision from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the state could require felons to pay fines, restitution and legal fees before they can regain their right to vote.

The money from these fines and fees is distributed based on the statutory fee and fine schedule, which includes broad categories of distribution such as to the State of Florida, the Clerks of Court State Trust Fund, Pinellas County, and local municipalities, among others.

When inquiring about the amount due in order to have voting rights restored, Burke says it is important to identify the inquiry as related to voting rights, since the amount usually differs from the total amount due.

That’s due to several factors, including probation violations that could alter the amount due in order to have voting rights restored, as well as if the court allowed for community service hours to offset fees. Also, if the Court modified the original sentencing document, the calculation of the modification must be taken into account.

There are also several items not necessary in order for the restoration of voting rights, including statutory late fees, collection fees as prescribed by statute, interest on a civil judgment related to the fines and fees and fines and fees assessed on a withhold of adjudication.

“In Pinellas, we have provided training to our call center and criminal court customer service staff on the proper handling of inquiries related to the amounts due to satisfy the restoration of voting rights requirement,” Burke said in a news release. “The court’s dissenting opinion and some news stories have pointed out confusion when inquiring as to the amount due, and we have put training in place to minimize this.”

Although ultimately the Supervisor of Elections and the Secretary of State are responsible for determining a person’s eligibility to vote, the Clerk is responsible for collecting balances due.

The recent ruling by the Atlanta-based appeals court overturned a district judge’s ruling, which said the state cannot deny the right to vote to felons who are “genuinely unable to pay” court-ordered debts.

Floridians already voted on the issue with 64% voting in favor of a 2018 constitutional amendment that restored non-violent felon voting rights after they completed their sentences. The legal dispute arose after lawmakers looked to define what it means to complete a sentence, siding with the state that returning felons must satisfy all court fines and fees and restitution before rights are restored.

About a third of the state’s 1.4 million convicted felons who are unable to vote are Black. If all 1.4 million eligible former felons registered to vote, they would make up roughly 10% of the voting population in the state, according to ABC news

A statewide Best Practice was adopted after careful study, and a recommended uniform payoff form was developed.

A listing of the key contact phone number and email address for each Clerk’s office is also in the process of being compiled to help Pinellas County residents making an inquiry related to a felony conviction in another county quickly. 

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


  • Manuel Alonso

    October 1, 2020 at 10:10 am

    Has Mike Bloomberg told the felons receiving money to pay fines that they need to report are funds as income? Is Bloomberg filling out an IRS 1099 form for each of them so they can pay taxes on the money they’re getting?

  • Ian

    October 1, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    From the Article:
    Floridians already voted on the issue with 64% voting in favor of a 2018 constitutional amendment that restored non-violent felon voting rights after they completed their sentences.

    Reporters are making this mistake more and more often these days. A4 is not limited to “non-violent” felons. Only murderers and sex offenders are excluded. Felons who have committed any other violent crime can get their voting rights restored under A4, including crimes like kidnapping, attempted murder, assault and battery, domestic violence, and any other violent crime aside from murder and a sex offense. Please stop telling your readers that A4 applies only to non-violent felons, because that’s simply false.

    Lastly, instead of “after they completed their sentences,” it should read “after they completed all terms of their sentences.” The amendment specifies “all terms of sentence,” and that was what the big lawsuit was fought over, so you really do your readers a disservice to leave that out.

    You’re welcome.

  • Steve

    October 1, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Is there an opportunity for volunteers to assist “returning citizens” in filling out the vote-restoration paperwork? If so, what is the contact information to provide assistance?

  • jimmy

    October 4, 2020 at 10:19 am

    There is no taxable income if Bloomberg pays the fine. It is a gift rather than pay for goods/services. So no 1099 is necessary.

Comments are closed.


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