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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.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 20, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on America's voting barriers

On Tuesday, October 23, Axios' Sara Kehaulani Goo, Margaret Talev, and Alexi McCammond hosted a virtual event on barriers to voting access across the country, featuring Southwest Voter Registration Education Project President Lydia Camarillo, U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chairman Benjamin Hovland, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition President Desmond Meade and "The West Wing" actors Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff.

Benjamin Hovland unpacked how to vote safely during this unprecedented year and highlighted the uptick in mail-in ballots and early voting.

  • On a notable increase in early ballots being cast: "We're seeing a surge in early in-person voting...We're already at around 30 million Americans that have already voted in the 2020 election, which is pretty remarkable."
  • On the impact of the pandemic on mail-in ballots: "About 25% of Americans vote by mail in a normal year, or in 2016. So we're going to see an increase probably closer to half."

Lydia Camarillo discussed the importance of the Latino electorate in American elections.

  • The impact on November's election: "I think that the Latino electorate can be the deciding factor in this election — in partnership with other groups like the Black community, the Muslim community, Asian American community and progressives. They will decide the election."

Desmond Meade, who helped lead the 2018 fight for Amendment 4 in Florida, unpacked the expansion of voting rights and Florida's impact on similar state-level policy changes across the country.

  • On restoring felon rights: "This thing has caught on like a wildfire. All across this country, people are really standing up. Because America is a nation of second chances. And it's showing up right now in a major way."

Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff discussed the recent "The West Wing" episode on HBO Max and the experience of reuniting as an ensemble cast.

  • Richard Schiff on the meaning of the episode: "It's a rare thing in this day and age around the world to have the privilege to vote and the right to vote. And we should be very careful to not let it be extinguished and that this episode addresses that."

Axios Vice President of Event Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top segment with Lyft Head of Policy Engagement and Strategic Partnerships Heather Foster who discussed how transportation plays a critical role in voting access.

  • "We took a look at the statistics that came out of 2016, and it was estimated at the time that more than 15 million eligible voters did not go to the polls because they lacked a way to get there."

This event was the first in a yearlong series called Hard Truths, where we'll be discussing the wide ranging impact of systemic racism in America. Read our deep dive on race and voting here.

Thank you Lyft for sponsoring this event.

Appeals court: Uber, Lyft have to make California drivers employees

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A California appeals court Thursday said Uber and Lyft have to reclassify their drivers in the state as employees, affirming a lower court's ruling.

Why it matters: The companies are fighting a new state law, at the center of this lawsuit, that imposes stricter requirements in order to classify workers as independent contractors.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Beto not even best Dem against Abbott

Beto O'Rourke speaks at a rally at the Texas State Capitol in June. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Actor Matthew McConaughey’s nine-point lead in a theoretical matchup against Greg Abbott shows just how vulnerable the hard-right Texas governor could be in a general election.

Why it matters: Abbott has won conservative accolades for his abortion, mask and vaccine bans. Axios reported Sunday that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to announce a gubernatorial challenge — but a recent poll shows he’s not even the most popular Democrat in the state.