A man on his way out of prison was abruptly stopped by authorities who accused him of committing a second crime and promptly took him to jail to face charges. The man claimed that he couldn’t have done anything wrong because he was imprisoned at the time. However, at county jail, he learned that he was facing charges for illegally voting. He and ten others are now facing charges of voter fraud.
In 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum allowing those with felonies on their record to vote once they had completed their prison time. Prior, those with felony records had to petition the governor to restore their voting rights. Florida was one of ten states with such draconian restrictions on the rights of former prisoners.
In response to the referendum, Republican lawmakers passed a law requiring former felons to pay off any money owed before having their voting rights restored. Failure to do so could result in a felony conviction of voter fraud. That’s how our former prisoner ended up being charged with a second offense on his way out the door.
An individual who is charged with a crime is often fined in addition to a prison stint. Additionally, they may owe restitution to a victim. Advocates for restoring voting rights did not think that this was unfair at the time. However, the process allowed the men to believe their voting rights had been restored and then charged them with fraud after restoring their voting rights. Even for those who advocated for the financial provision, this appears to be overly aggressive and unfair.
Why is this a problem?
There’s no way to figure out how much money you owe. Florida keeps no centralized database for those convicted of crimes to determine how much they must pay to have their voting rights restored. Instead, the process greenlit the voter registration forms and then subsequently charged the folks with felonies. Such traps are common under the law and disproportionately impact the poor. Further, Florida keeps no records concerning out-of-state fines or federal prosecutions. In other words, individuals are expected to know information that the state does not afford them access to. It’s basically a way to trap people in the system and disenfranchise them.
While you may be of the mind that a prisoner should pay their debt completely to society before having their voting rights restored, you probably also believe that the prisoner should be prevented from moving forward with their application as opposed to being charged with a felony because the government didn’t do their due diligence prior to accepting the voter registration. In other words, they created a trap.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
Charged with voter fraud on your way out of the door from prison? Call the West Palm Beach criminal lawyers at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to discuss the matter in more detail and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.