Can Donald Trump, convicted in a hush money case, vote in Florida? – NBC 6 South Florida

Former President Donald Trump can still run for the White House despite being found guilty on all counts in a New York trial over hush money charges. But as a Floridian, could he still vote for himself?

Trump was found guilty on Thursday of 34 counts of falsifying business records, allegedly in connection with the cover-up of a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

Most legal experts PolitiFact asked said it was unlikely that Trump, a Palm Beach County voter, would lose his right to vote if convicted of a crime. A spokesperson for the Florida Department of State and the media office of the Florida Commission on Offender Review did not respond to PolitiFact's emails. State officials are unlikely to answer that question unless they are required to do so by litigation or because an official requests an opinion.

Trump can also continue to run for president even after being convicted of a serious crime.

Here's what we learned about Trump's voting rights.

Florida voters have agreed to make it easier for felons to regain their right to vote

States pass laws about whether felons lose their right to vote and how they can regain it. In the District of Columbia, Maine, and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while incarcerated.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 23 states, felons lose their right to vote only if they are incarcerated. In some other states, including Florida, felons must meet certain conditions to regain their right to vote, such as paying fines, fees and restitution.

Some lawyers we interviewed pointed to uncertainty or confusion about whether Trump could lose his right to vote. Some Floridians with criminal records have been tripped up by the rules. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition dropped a lawsuit against the state after it agreed to develop rules to update the process for felons who want to seek counseling about whether they can vote.

“As this one case alone demonstrates, the state of Florida has made it extraordinarily difficult, and in some cases impossible, for someone with a criminal record to find out if they are eligible to vote,” said Nicholas Warren, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “The rules that determine whether one can vote should be simple and clear to understand, and it is the state's duty to make this information available to anyone who wishes to fulfill that role.”

Historically, Florida has had one of the strictest procedures for felons to regain their right to vote.

In 2018, Florida residents voted to restore the right to vote to felons after they have completed their sentences, including parole, except for defendants charged with murder or sexual assault. Previously, felons had to ask the Florida Cabinet, which includes the governor and other statewide elected officials, if they could regain their right to vote.

Supporters of the voting law change had hoped the measure would streamline the process, but it remains chaotic because the state has no easy way to determine whether felons have fulfilled all the terms of their sentence, including paying fines.

Under New York State law, a convicted felon who is not in prison is eligible to register to vote.

Trump faces an out-of-state conviction. Florida law experts point to the section on the Florida Department of State's website that states: “A conviction of a crime in another state will only render a person ineligible to vote in Florida if the conviction would also render the person ineligible to vote in the state in which he or she was convicted.”

New York State passed a law in 2021 that restores voting rights to people convicted of a crime after they are released from prison, whether they are on parole or will be on probation after release. Voters do not lose their right to vote unless they are in prison serving a sentence for a crime. People whose prison sentences are suspended pending appeal do not lose their right to vote, said Kathleen R. McGrath, spokeswoman for the New York State Board of Elections.

“So former President Trump would have to actually be incarcerated by the time of the November election to lose his right to vote,” said Neil Volz, a criminal justice expert and deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the group that has pushed for the felons' voting rights change.

The ACLU of Florida's guide to felons' voting rights states that if someone “was convicted outside of Florida, his voting rights are governed by the state in which he was convicted.”

Many legal experts doubt that Trump will face prison time if convicted, since the charge is a non-violent, minor crime and he has no prior criminal record. One possibility is that the jury could convict him of a misdemeanor.

“I think it's extremely unlikely that he would be sentenced to prison if convicted, and so I think it's extremely unlikely that he would lose his right to vote because of events in New York,” Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, told PolitiFact. (Levitt served as the White House's first senior policy adviser on democracy and voting rights from 2021 to 2022.)

However, if Trump is convicted and sentenced to prison, Levitt wrote on the Election Law Blog, “I am quite confident that there would still be an intensive appeals process – lasting many months at least – before any incarceration would begin and before his right to vote in Florida would be in jeopardy.”

Jennifer Blohm, a Florida voting rights attorney, said she was unsure if Trump would lose his right to vote, but if he did, he could turn to the Florida Board of Pardons and Clemency, which is the Florida Cabinet, to have his rights restored.

Barry Richard, an attorney who has represented politicians in Florida, pointed to Article VI, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution, which states:

“No person convicted of a crime, or found mentally incompetent in this or any other state, shall be entitled to vote or to hold office until his civil rights have been restored or his disability removed.”

Richard emphasized the construction of this sentence and the placement of the comma. The first clause, “no person convicted of a crime,” does not contain the clause “in this or any other state,” but the second clause about mental incompetence does contain that clause.

One could therefore argue that the wording was deliberately drafted to allow for a distinction, he said – or one could argue that it makes no sense to apply another state's law to mental incapacity but not to a crime.

“You can argue it either way,” Richard said. “I can't find any case law addressing this issue, nothing in the legislative history suggests there was any intent here. If he is convicted, you have to wait for a judicial interpretation.”

Anna Harden

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *