Jul 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court won't block Florida law limiting felons' voting rights

Ron Desantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to block Florida's rules that prevent some convicted felons from voting — a temporary win that will leave the state's restrictions in place into the fall, if not longer.

Why it matters: This legal dispute will ultimately determine whether hundreds of thousands of Floridians are eligible to vote — enough to swing an election.

The background: Florida voters approved a measure in 2o18 to restore felons' voting rights after they've completed their sentences. But Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) then signed a law that said felons would only get their voting rights back after they've not only served out their prison terms, but also paid any outstanding fines and penalties.

  • A judge ruled DeSantis' restrictions unconstitutional, but a federal appeals court has allowed them to take effect while the legal dispute over their merits continues.
  • Voting rights advocates asked the Supreme Court to intervene and put the state's payment requirements on ice while the case works its way through the courts. The court declined that request today.

The other side: Three of the liberal justices dissented, saying the court should have temporarily frozen DeSantis' restrictions.

  • "This Court’s inaction continues a trend of condoning disfranchisement," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote.

What's next: Felons who haven't paid off their fines and penalties will not be able to register to vote in time for the state's primaries next month. Whether they'll be able to vote in November is up to the appeals court.

  • In addition to preventing new voters from registering, these rulings are also leaving in limbo some 85,000 people who have already registered, per the AP.

Read the dissenting opinion via DocumentCloud.

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