Legislation to restore voting rights to convicted felons except murderers and felony sex offenders has passed the Florida House.
The Republican-dominated House voted 71-45 Wednesday for the bill that would implement a constitutional amendment approved by voters last November. The main issue is whether legislation is needed at all, and whether the bill sets up unnecessary hurdles for ex-felons such as requiring that all fines and restitution be paid.
Republican Rep. James Grant of Tampa, the main sponsor, said completion of a sentence includes probation and any financial obligations ordered by a judge. Opponents said those requirements would bar many former felons and violate the spirit of the constitutional amendment.
The bill has drawn attention outside Florida, including from critics Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who are calling it a "poll tax," akin to the fee that was historically used to keep African Americans from voting until the 1960s.
The author of the Florida bill takes offense to that.
"To suggest that this is a poll tax inherently diminishes the atrocity of what a poll tax actually was," Grant said.
The bill now goes to the Senate where a similar measure is pending.