71 Am. U. L. Rev. F. 215 (2022).
In 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 4, a momentous criminal justice reform intended to restore the right to vote to felons in Florida who complete the terms of their sentence. In response, the Florida legislature limited Amendment 4 to apply only to those who have paid all court fees, costs, fines, and restitution. Therefore, Amendment 4 excludes those who have completed their terms of incarceration and parole or probation but still have outstanding legal financial obligations. This Comment discusses the history of the poll tax, felon disenfranchisement, and Florida’s LFO requirement. It also examines their disparate impacts on Black Americans. Then, Part II uses the “Obamacare” case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, to distinguish penalties from taxes and to show that Florida courts’ fees and costs constitute taxes. Finally, this Comment concludes that conditioning felon re-enfranchisement on the payment of court fees and costs violates the Twenty-Fourth Amendment as a tax abridging the right to vote.
* Senior Staff Member, American University Law Review, Volume 72; J.D. Candidate, May 2023, American University Washington College of Law; B.A., Public Policy, College of William & Mary. Thank you to Professor Elizabeth Earle Beske for her invaluable guidance throughout the Comment process, and to the entire AULR team, particularly my editors, Russell Potter and Luke Hancox, for their thoughtful feedback.