The Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court’s decision to deny former felons the right to vote in Florida of they owe court fees and fines. The majority vote, which did not explain its decision, leaves the case in the hands of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
After a ballot measure was passed in 2018, which lifted Florida’s lifetime ban on felon voting, Gov. Ron DeSantis passed a law “that requires people with felony convictions to pay outstanding court debts and fees before they can register to vote,” Politico reported. The law was challenged in court in late May where U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that it unconstitutional calling it “an illegal pay-to-vote system.” Hinkle’s ruling was appealed by DeSantis to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was put on hold this month to review the appeal, which forced voting rights groups to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
The Supreme Court’s decision will leave hundreds of thousands of past felons ineligible to vote in the battleground state’s August primaries and could continue into November come the presidential election because of fines and fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
“The Supreme Court stood by as the Eleventh Circuit prevented hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida’s primary election simply because they can’t afford to pay fines and fees. We look forward to continuing to fight for Florida voters so they can participate in the General Election in November.”
Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented and said: “this court’s inaction continues a trend of condoning disenfranchisement.”
Voting rights advocacy groups called the Supreme Court’s decision “deeply disappointing.”
“This ruling means if you’re a poor person with a felony conviction you’re disenfranchised,” Joyce Vance, a U.S. Attorney under the Obama administration, said in a tweet. “If you can afford to pay fines you can vote. Setting aside that there’s no reason to keep people who’ve served their sentence from voting forever, this is a poll tax.”