A top Florida elections official testified that as many as 85,000 voters might be ineligible to cast ballots in the state.
Politico reports, “Maria Matthews, director of the state Division of Elections, said the state has flagged thousands of voters who have been convicted of a felony. The voters might be serving a prison sentence or have convictions for murder or sex offenses that would make them ineligible to vote under Amendment 4, a measure that ended the state’s lifetime ban on voting for most people who have served time for felonies.”
Florida has more than 13.7 million registered voters and generally plays a key role in presidential elections; President Donald Trump won it by just under 113,000 votes in 2016 and according to RealClear Politics, Trump trails former Vice President Joe Biden in Florida by an average of 3.2 percentage points.
Matthews’ testimony Monday was one of the key points of the trial about the constitutionality of a 2019 law requiring felons to pay “legal financial obligations” to be eligible to vote.
Florida voters approved Amendment 4 in 2018. In 2019, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature passed a law requiring felons to pay “legal financial obligations” that restores voting rights “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole and probation.”
Civil rights groups and voting advocates who are representing felons in the lawsuit, allege that hinging voting rights on finances amounts to an unconstitutional “poll tax.” But Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has fiercely defended the law, saying it reflects the language of the constitutional amendment.
Matthews was put on the stand by attorneys for the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis. She spent hours explaining how the state has responded to the law. During her testimony, as she described procedures used by the state to flag ineligible voters, she acknowledged that state officials were working on a backlog of voters who had been flagged as potentially ineligible.
Florida has adapted its voter purging process over the years after previous felon voting purges — including one ahead of the 2000 presidential election — have drawn fierce criticism for errors.
Matthews said she had “grand aspirations” that they would begin sending information about potentially ineligible voters to local supervisors in May or June, but the coronavirus pandemic and other problems have made it difficult to meet that timeline.