Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Hillsborough State Attorney wants ‘rocket docket’ to restore felons’ voting rights

Lawmakers muddied the voting rights restored by Amendment 4. Andrew Warren has a plan for that.
Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren at a 2018 news conference. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Jun. 30

TAMPA — Last fall, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that automatically restored voting rights to felons who have completed their prison or probation sentences.

Then in the spring, the state Legislature said Amendment 4 only applies to people who do not still owe court fines and fees.

One of the only ways around that is for felons to ask a judge to waive those costs or convert them to community service hours.

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren wants to make that happen en masse.

Warren said Saturday that his office is exploring the possibility of asking a judge to waive the court costs in favor of community service for a large number of cases.

The idea is to create a “rocket docket,” where a judge could eliminate the debts of hundreds or thousands of defendants, speeding up the process for those who want to register to vote.

“Our goal is to fulfill the promise of Amendment 4,” Warren told the Tampa Bay Times on Saturday. “The focus is on people with lower level crimes who have paid their debt to society.”

THE BUZZ: Ron DeSantis signs Amendment 4 bill, limiting felon voting

The plan is far from final, Warren said. But he has discussed the idea for the last few months with lawmakers and local government officials, including the Clerk of Court, the Public Defender’s Office, the Department of Corrections, the Commission on Offender Review and Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta, among others..

The challenge, Warren said, is to determine who might be eligible. There is no single database that keeps track of who owes money and how much. It’s still unclear when the effort might come to fruition.

“There is a fair amount of nuance to this,” Warren said. “We want to make sure we’re doing this the right way and following the law.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial bill Friday, which limits how many felons will be able to vote. Critics say the law amounts to a “poll tax,” and that it disenfranchises thousands of felons who registered to vote after Amendment 4 passed.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups quickly sured to block the new law, arguing on behalf of several felons who registered to vote after the amendment passed but would lose that right again under the new law.

“It is not constitutional, it is not legal, and it is not right to deny people the right to vote because you can’t pay,” ACLU Florida executive director Micah Kubic told the Times. “What this bill does is reestablish a poll tax.”

The Amendment restored voting rights to felons, except those convicted of murder or sex offenses.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com. Follow @TimesDan.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Tallahassee on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, while a federal judge heard arguments for an against the the Legislature's bill implementing Amendment 4. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    It’s unclear how state and county officials plan on complying with the judge’s order, however. The “poll tax” issued wasn’t addressed, either.
  2. The Florida Capitol. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The job entails being a part-time lobbyist, part-time expert on the Florida Sunshine Law.
  3. Florida K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva presents the state's second draft of academic standards revisions during an Oct. 17, 2017, session at Jefferson High School in Tampa. Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the effort in an executive order to remove the Common Core from Florida schools. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times staff
    ‘Our third draft will look different from our second,’ the chancellor explains.
  4. Igor Fruman, hugs Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, as Lev Parnas looks on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando at the watch party for DeSantis. Fruman and Parnas were arrested last week on campaign finance violations. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Florida’s governor has shrugged off past donor controversies. This time, there were photos. Now it’s not going away.
  5. The sun sets over a slab which once served as a foundation for a home on Mexico Beach in May. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Area leaders fear lower population numbers will lead to reduced federal funding and political representation.
  6. Senador de Florida, Rick Scott.  Foto: AP
    “The FBI has failed to give me or these families an acceptable answer, but I’m not going to allow that,” Scott said, adding that the FBI didn’t share pertinent information on shootings at Pulse, the...
  7. Courtney Wild, 30, was a victim of serial sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein beginning at the age of 14. Epstein paid Wild, and many other underage girls, to give him massages, often having them undress and perform sexual acts. Epstein also used the girls as recruiters, paying them to bring him other underage girls. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
    Courtney Wild’s relentless quest for justice has led to a bipartisan push for sweeping reforms.
  8. Scott Israel, former Broward County Sheriff speaks during a news conference on Sept. 25, in Davie. A Florida Senate official is recommending that the sheriff, suspended over his handling of shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, should be reinstated. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Naples lawyer Dudley Goodlette was threatened shortly after he made his recommendation last month.
  9. Rep. Jamie Grant, R- Tampa and Senator Jeff Brandes, R- St. Petersburg listen to Amendment 4 debate in the Florida Senate on Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    “I think some of the points of the judge were well-made," Sen. Jeff Brandes said.
  10. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — did not respond this past week to requests from the Miami Herald to address her $761,560 annual salary. She is head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]
    The Florida Department of Children and Families started a review of a domestic violence nonprofit’s finances last summer after it was reported that its CEO Tiffany Carr was paid $761,000. The state...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement