USA: Florida court decision could give hundreds of thousands back their vote

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Four years ago, Florida was an important building block for Donald Trump’s surprising election success. In the US presidential election, the state is one of the so-called swing states, in which the decision between the republican and the democratic candidate is usually narrow. Trump was ahead of Hillary Clinton in Florida.

Now a court has inflicted a grave legal defeat on the state’s republican government, with potential ramifications for the November election.

Federal judge Robert Hinkle invalidated a Florida law, which should link the right to vote for former prisoners to having paid their court fees and fines. The law should have introduced an unconstitutional system of voting rights against payment, said Hinkle in his judgment announced on Sunday.

The repayment is only reasonable as a condition if the person concerned knows the exact amount and is solvent. However, the AP news agency said it could take years for election officials to figure out the amounts for those currently affected.

An estimated 774,000 people could benefit

The decision potentially opens the way for hundreds of thousands of former Florida inmates to vote in the November presidential and congressional elections. According to the AP, an estimated 774,000 people are affected. However, Governor Ron DeSantis still has the option to contest the verdict. The Republican signed the violently controversial law in the summer of 2019.

In November 2018, Florida voters voted for a constitutional amendment to give ex-inmates the right to vote. Condemned murderers and sex offenders are excluded. Almost a million ex-prisoners had previously been excluded from voting in the state.

After the referendum, however, Florida’s parliament passed the law, which should, among other things, oblige ex-prisoners to pay all of their court fees, fines, and compensation before they can vote again. Trump’s Republicans are in the majority in the regional parliament.

17 former prisoners then sued the law. Judge Hinkle then suspended the law last September. However, his decision at the time was only preliminary. Most of the ex-prisoners who his current sentence potentially paves the way for election are blacks and Latinos. These populations traditionally choose predominantly Democratic Party candidates. In 2016, Trump won by a good 100,000 votes ahead of Clinton – just over a percentage point.

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