The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held hearings Tuesday over a controversial Florida law that prohibits former felons from voting if they owe court fees and fines. The 2019 law, SB7066, is supported by Republican Gov. DeSantis but detractors claim it is an attempt to disenfranchise a large voting bloc that is likely to vote for Democrats in the upcoming election.

DeSantis’ attorney Charles Cooper argued at the hearing that felons do not have a fundamental right to vote.

“The financial terms of a felon’s sentence were imposed because he committed a felony, and the state’s continuing demand that he pay them is not some new and different punishment,” Cooper said.

Chief Judge William Pryor had asked if the financial requirement for voting is the equivalent of a poll tax, which is prohibited under the 24th Amendment.

"I'm having a big problem with your argument that the 24th Amendment doesn't apply," Pryor told Cooper.

In 2018, voters moved to pass Florida Amendment 4, a ballot initiative that would restore the voting rights of convicted felons if they completed their sentences, with exceptions made for those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. In January 2019, an estimated 1.4 million ex-felons in Florida became eligible to vote due to the amendment.

Florida Democrats believe Republicans are trying to undermine Amendment 4 by requiring ex-felons to pay off all their financial obligations so they can vote.

“I don’t believe the voter intended for financial barriers to stop them from exercising the right to participate,” said Florida State Sen. Darryl Rouson, a Democrat from St. Petersburg.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, a Republican from Fleming Island, argued that felons have not completed their sentence if they still owe money.

“If they took money from you, if they broke in to your house and stole something that is valuable to you and your family and they have not paid it back, they have not completed their sentence,” Bradley said.

Felon voting rights vary by state. In Maine and Vermont, for example, convicted felons have always retained the right to vote. In Iowa, convicted felons were permanently barred from voting until a recent executive order from Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.