Florida Republicans are hailing a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling as a big win.
As Politico reported, this week’s decision upheld a state law requiring convicted felons to pay all of the fines related to their criminal actions and convictions before having their voting rights restored.
Background on the case
In effect, this move means that as many as 1 million convicted felons will be ineligible to vote in Florida’s upcoming primary — and could be prevented from voting in November’s general election.
The case dates back to a 2018 ballot measure to restore the voting rights of felons with the requirement only that they had completed their prison sentences. That measure passed with the support of 64% of the electorate, according to The Hill.
In a subsequent move by the state’s Republican-led legislature, however, new requirements were added that meant released felons also had to pay off debts related to their cases — court costs, fines, and other expenses — before being able to vote.
The controversial legislation was challenged in the courts and the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
A resulting 6-3 decision means justices have essentially decided not to get involved in the state matter.
“Simply because they are poor”
The three dissenting justices represent the liberal wing of the court, and they expressed their displeasure over the majority opinion in a statement.
Written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and joined by Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the dissenting opinion argued that the ruling “prevents thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida’s primary election simply because they are poor.”
Paul Smith, an executive at one of the legal groups representing felons in the case challenging Florida’s law, described the decision as “disappointing” and an affront to voters who “spoke loud and clear when nearly two-thirds of them supported rights restoration at the ballot box in 2018.”
After studying the facts associated with the case, however, a clear majority of the court felt that it would not be appropriate to get involved in Florida’s voting requirements.
Those arguing that they amount to a poll tax, which would render them unconstitutional, tend to downplay the fact that they apply only to convicted felons. Requiring would-be voters to pay their debt to society in full is hardly the same as demanding a fee upon casting a ballot.