Voting Rights, Felons, and Florida

The Story:

The US Supreme Court last week let stand (at least for now) a Court of Appeals ruling that in turn allows Florida to prohibit voting by convicted felons who have not yet paid all the court costs, fees, and fines, associated with their felonies. Defenders of that prohibition see it as common sense, part of the natural cost of commission of a serious crime. Opponents of the prohibition see it as an example of voter suppression, aiding the Powers That Be.

Background:

In 2018, Florida voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that allows people with felony convictions to vote once they have completed “all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.” That language doesn’t specifically include fines and costs as among the terms that have to be completed for the franchise to be restored.

The court of appeals’ ruling was preliminary. It will hold a hearing on the underlying issues August 18.

According to Justice Sotomayor, who dissented from the majority’s decision to leave the Court of Appeals ruling in place, that ruling “prevents thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida’s primary election simply because they are poor.”

The Thing to Know:

The issue now returns to the Appeals Court. By coincidence, August 18 is also the day of Florida’s primary.

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