On Thursday, a committee of the Florida House of Representatives voted along party lines to advance a bill that could bar from the ballot box many of the estimated 1.5 million convicted felons who just regained the franchise, NBC News reports.
Rep. James Grant, a Republican who represents Tampa in the Florida House, says he absolutely believes in second chances and redemption but is sponsoring a House bill requiring felons who have completed their jail terms to pay all fines and fees associated with their case before regaining the right to vote. "I also took an oath ... and swore to uphold the fidelity of the Constitution,” he said.
The House bill approved Thursday by the State Affairs Committee will next go to the Florida House Judiciary committee. If it passes there, it will go to the full floor of the Republican-controlled Florida House of Representatives for a vote. A similar bill is working its way through committees in the Republican-dominated Senate.
“It’s hard for me to say what the legislature’s intent is,” said Julie Ebenstein, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, “but what I can say is it’s clear what the effects of all this will be, and who will be most deeply affected because of the relationship between race and income, race and policing, race and employment.”