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State Not Ready To Remove Felons With Financial Obligations From Voter Rolls

Leon County Supervisor Mark Earley says the state and election officers are nowhere close to removing felons that have not paid fines, fees and restitution from voter rolls.

The Florida Department of State gave supervisors a form that lays out a removal process, but it hasn't put the plan into action as it awaits guidance from the legislature or courts.

“I don’t think that there is going to be anything regarding restitution fines and fees prior to the March 17presidential preference primary in Florida," suggests Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley. "We’re going to be sending ballots out in January, vote by mail ballots... and the polls will be open and ballots will be accepted with votes on them well before March 17.”

Earley attended a workshop for supervisors this week where the Florida Division of Elections handed out the forms.

He and other supervisors have been removing felons who are either imprisoned or convicted of murder or sexual offenses. Those were the two exceptions granted under a constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to most felons who've completed their sentences. Earley says his department had also been removing felons still on probation until they hit a roadblock.

“We did see some problems initially with some of the information we were receiving for people that were on probationary supervision. So that part of the phase one seems to have actually been pulled back," he says.

The issues stem from a lawsuit involving 2018's Amendment 4 along with an implementing law that required felons to repay all fines, fees and restitution before registering to vote. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle says the state can't withhold a person's right to vote due to an inability to pay. The state is appealing.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.