THE NEUTRAL ZONE
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a Florida law that restricts felons from casting election ballots, focusing a spotlight once more on voting rights before November’s presidential election.
The Republican-backed law, signed and defended by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, requires people who have been convicted of a felony to pay court fines and fees before being eligible to register to vote. Voting rights advocates argue the law amounts to an “illegal poll tax,” and Congressional Democrats argue that the law is one of many in which Republicans across the country are attempting to pass laws that suppress voters in groups that tend to vote for Democratic candidates.
The high court did not explain its decision, although the justices appointed by Democratic presidents – Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – all dissented. Other critics say that keeping the law in place directly opposes Floridians’ approval of a 2018 amendment to the state constitution that would allow felons to vote, excluding those convicted of murder or sexual offenses.
The decision could have “broad implications” in the presidential race this fall, as Florida is expected to play a pivotal role. In all, the law could block 774,000 felons from casting ballots. Without a system in place to help felons get information about whether they owe fines or how much they owe, critics say they believe the law will effectively disenfranchise those voters.
Supreme Court declines to reinstate vote of nearly 1 million Florida felons – TheHill – 7/16/2020. In an unsigned opinion, the conservative-majority court declined to revisit a federal appeals court ruling that permits Florida to stop felons with outstanding court-imposed debt from registering to vote as a July 20 primary election registration deadline approaches.
Supreme Court allows Florida to enforce felon voting rights law – Roll Call – 7/16/2020. The high court’s decision is the fourth ahead of the 2020 election that cuts against access to the ballot — adding to decisions about elections in Wisconsin, Texas and Alabama — and it drew sharp criticism from three justices on the court’s liberal wing.
Supreme Court Won’t Lift Freeze In Florida Felon Voting Rights Case – Reason – 7/16/2020. The Fines & Fees Justice Center has found that Florida courts, which are funded almost entirely through fines and fees, had “115 different types of fees and surcharges, the second highest number in the country.” As a result, WLRN reported, Florida felons would have to pay back hundreds of millions of dollars to restore their voting rights.
Supreme Court declines to overturn decision in fight over felon voting in Florida – Tampa Bay Times – 7/16/2020. Last week, Florida’s battle over felon voting made its first appearance before the high court when the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups asked the justices to overturn a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.
Mark Joseph Stern on Twitter, 7/16/2020: 🚨SCOTUS allows Florida’s pay-to-vote scheme, which disenfranchises thousands of ex-felons, to take effect. This likely means thousands of Floridians will be unable to vote in the 2020 election due to lack of money. Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan dissent. I’ll have a link soon.
Mark Davis on Twitter, 7/16/2020: There is no #Florida #polltax. There is no right for felons to vote without completing the terms of their sentence. FL Prop 4 allowed felon voting upon proper completion, which contains costs that have always existed. The #SCOTUS ruling is correct.
Chase Strangio on Twitter, 7/16/2020: Today SCOTUS let Florida’s poll tax stay in effect despite it being struck down at trial. To ensure that people are not barred from voting come November donate to clear court fines and fees. I am going to donate $100 today. Who will match me?
Steve Milloy Twitter, 7/16/2020: Until a felon pays his debt to society he hasn’t paid his debt to society and so is not entitled to vote. via @epochtimes