A ruling from the Supreme Court on Thursday has Democrats stunned.
The high court decided to let stand a lower court’s ruling that, according to The Hill, “effectively makes it illegal for court-indebted felons to register to vote or cast ballots” in Florida.
A 6-3 majority opted not to overturn an appeals court ruling allowing the state to use a 2018 amendment to its constitution to require convicted felons to pay all fees and fines on their records before being allowed to vote.
Challenged in court
The majority declined to provide a reason for its decision, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor — joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagen — issued a fierce dissent that accused her colleagues on the court of “condoning disenfranchisement” of poor former felons, as Politico reported. Sotomayor also likened the law to a “voter paywall” that she said unfairly targeted “indigent would-be voters.”
The case stems from a 2018 amendment voted into law by Floridians that restored the right to vote for convicted felons who had completed “all terms of their sentence including parole or probation,” according to Fox News. As The Hill noted, Florida’s Republican-led legislature and GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis perceived “all terms of their sentence” to also include the full payment of any court fees, fines, or restitution associated with the sentence, and passed a law explicitly stating as much.
That law was subsequently challenged in court, and a federal district court in Florida initially issued a temporary injunction on the law that was upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, as explained in Sotomayor’s dissent.
Upon further hearings at the district level — in which the judge changed the temporary injunction to a permanent one — the 11th Circuit decided to instead issue a stay on that permanent injunction after an appeal by the governor, Politico reported.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to overturn that stay means that the lower court’s injunction against the law can’t go into effect, and the law will continue to be enforced for now, pending further hearings on the merits of the case at the appeals court level.
The left cries foul
According to The Hill, Florida has a July 20 deadline to register for upcoming primary elections.
Unless something changes, it has been estimated by a study that upwards of 775,000 Floridians with felony records may be barred from registering to vote or participating in the elections due to outstanding legal financial obligations related to their convictions, Politico reported.
Echoing the criticism of Sotomayor, Democrats and the media have seized on the timing of the decision, just days prior to the voter registration deadline, to call the move discriminatory and suppressive.
However, the very language of the amendment passed in 2018 called for “all terms” of a sentence to be fulfilled prior to the restoration of voting rights — and whether the left likes it or not, court-imposed financial obligations like fees and fines are part and parcel with “all terms” of a sentence. This was the right call.