By Nicholas Balbontin
These words, tweeted from the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) in 2019, have become a rallying cry for those Americans attempting to fight for felons’ right to vote in Florida. ” FRRC was founded bv returning citizerns and is “dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with conviction.”
The Eleventh Circuit’s decision to uphold Fla. Stat. § 98.0751 has been widely covered across blogs, articles, and general media. The court upheld Fla. Stat. § 98.0751(2)(a)(5)(b), stating that even when a returning citizen has completed the imprisonment portion of his sentence, he has not fully completed his sentence until all fines and fees are paid. The decision not only sparked controversy but increased the urgency of voting rights restoration efforts as the upcoming presidential election approaches. In an incredibly lengthy, 6-4 split opinion, the majority cited the lack of a suspect class as the main reason behind its holding of no equal protection violation. Without a suspect class in question to elicit strict scrutiny, the court turned to rational basis review. Through this lens, the State was found to have had a rational interest in ensuring that its convicted felons completed the entirety of their sentence. This presents a barrier to restoration for those returning citizens who face financial hardship and are unable to pay off these fines and fees.