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Jim Crow Poll Tax

From Miami Public Radio WLRN: Felons Might Have To Pay Millions To Vote

Cartoon and Letter to the Editor were published in the St. Augustine Record March 27, 2019

To the Editor,

Re: Felon voting rights: Devil’s in the details (Record editorial 3/21/19).

Yes, it’s wrong that the GOP legislature in Tallahassee opposes Amendment 4 and will legislate against the voter’s wishes, but The Record’s support for a poll tax also shows contempt for those same voters.

Requiring released felons to buy back their vote will “disenfranchise by debt” the vast majority who are indigent.

According to an analysis by Miami radio station WLRN, “If fines are considered part of a criminal sentence, Florida residents could have to pay at minimum hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding fines related to felony charges before they are able to vote…In many cases, paying off the fines could also mean funneling money to private debt collection agencies, which under state law can assess up to an additional 40 percent rate on the amount owed.

“Between 2014 and 2018, an average 83 percent of the money levied per year by the courts is labeled by the state Clerk of Courts association as having ‘minimal collections expectations,’ meaning the courts know they are likely to never receive payment on the debt because the defendant is too poor to pay.”

To make matters worse, a 1998 Florida constitutional amendment requires courts to be funded entirely by fines and fees. Fees are usually assessed not by judges passing out sentences, but by court clerk who assess as much as possible, hoping they’ll net enough to survive.

If the GOP has its way, Florida’s history of segregated voting will continue. Just like the old Dixiecrats, Florida “Dixiecans” believe that they should select their voters, not vice-versa. The new poll tax bill does exactly that and The Record supports it. Jim Crow would be proud.

Mike Konopacki