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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Multiple states have started to rethink voting rights for convicted felons, but the steps toward restoring that privilege aren't always clear.

Driving the news: Florida's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that felons must complete "all terms of their sentence" before regaining their right to vote, including financial obligations such as fines, fees or restitution. The ruling comes after a yearlong battle between lawmakers and advocates over whether discharging financial penalties should be required before the right to vote was restored.

Where it stands: With the exception of Maine and Vermont, every state in the country has in some way limited felons' right to vote. Regaining their voice often requires a mix of completing a prison sentence, parole, probation and payment.

The catch: Even with shifting statutes, the laws remain nuanced, debated and often difficult to navigate. State election officials often cannot easily answer the question: “When can a felon in your state vote again?”

The odds: For former felons seeking to cast their votes, the lack of clear answers is problematic. In some states, the laws are in flux. In others, they were knotty from the start.

  • In Alabama, a Montgomery Advertiser report noted in March that felons don't always learn of changes to their voting rights. After new laws narrowed the list of crimes requiring disenfranchisement, many felons regained their ability to vote in 2018. But now organizers say large numbers are unaware of a shift in the law or what they need to do to become eligible to vote.
  • An Arizona report from KTAR News noted similar patterns of felons failing to be notified when they're eligible to vote again, as did a Louisiana report from the Daily Advertiser.
  • In North Carolina, the News and Observer reported that 460 allegations of felons voting while on probation or post-release supervision — prohibited in the state — have been referred to prosecutors since 2015. Many who were prosecuted said they didn't understand they were barred from voting.
  • In Florida, the law changed in 2018 to allow felons to regain voting rights after completing "all terms of their sentence." But a court has determined that "all terms" includes monetary obligations. Some felons already had registered to vote and cast ballots in local elections thinking "all terms" meant only prison, parole and probation.

What they’re saying: The Campaign Legal Center says it has seen similar issues while building Restore Your Vote, a website that provides information and updates on voting rights by state.

"Across the country, there are more than 23 million Americans with felony convictions — only about 5 million to 6 million do not have the right to vote under law, but many others do not vote because the laws in their state are complicated so they believe they can't. We built Restore Your Vote to provide an online resource to ameliorate this problem, but it really should be the responsibility of the states to make sure their citizens understand their fundamental right to participate."
— CLC's Blair Bowie told Axios

Go deeper

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel almost resigned over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel almost resigned in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelations stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.