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Tampa attorney files lawsuit after state law requires felons to pay back court costs before voting

Governor DeSantis signed the bill on Friday
Posted at 10:06 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-03 03:09:42-04

TAMPA, Fla. — A Tampa attorney filed a federal lawsuit suing the state of Florida over a law that requires felons to pay back fees and fines before voting.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Kelvin Leon Jones, a disabled ex-felon who lives in Tampa.

"It treats people who have money differently than people who don't have money," said attorney Michael Steinberg.

Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill requiring all fines and restitution be paid before voting rights are restored.

RELATED: Voting rights group raising money to pay felons' fees

The lawsuit stated this is unconstitutional and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The lawsuit also stated it discriminates on the basis of color and race.

"A lot of people are talking about discrimination based on ethnicity or race, but they're forgetting that a lot of people are disabled and a lot of people are elderly," said Steinberg.

On Tuesday, The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition said they hope to raise $3 million through fundraising.

Advocates who successfully pushed a ballot measure restoring voting rights to felons in Florida are now starting a fundraiser to help pay outstanding fees and fines that could prevent former felons from voting under the new law.

"Those individuals who are qualified to register to vote, we want to get them to register to vote. Those that still face the financial barriers, we want to make sure those financial barriers are removed," said Desmond Meade, Executive Director of Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

RELATED: New law keeps felon voting records secret from the public

Desmond said he realizes more money will be needed to pay the fines, but he wants to see how the process works first.

Steinberg said several similar lawsuits have been filed after Governor DeSantis signed the bill on Friday.

"This case is not just about Kelvin Jones. It's about everyone who is in his situation," said Steinberg.