Supreme Court Allows Florida to Block Ex-Felons From Voting If They Owe Fines

The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed Florida to require former felons to pay court fines and fees to be able to vote, though it did not rule on whether the law was constitutional, CNN reports.

The Supreme Court voted 6-3 not to block the state from enforcing a law that requires former felons that won the right to regain their vote in a voter referendum to first pay court fines and fees.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan dissented while liberal Justice Stephen Breyer joined the court’s five conservatives.

A federal appeals court this month blocked an earlier court ruling from May that cleared the way for hundreds of thousands of former felons to register to vote.

"This Court's order prevents thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida's primary election simply because they are poor," Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. "This Court's inaction continues a trend of condoning (disenfranchisement).”

Critics allege “poll tax”:

More than 1 million Florida residents with felony convictions had their voting rights restored when voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4, which allowed ex-felons who complete “all terms of sentence” to vote.

But the Florida legislature voted to require that “all terms of sentence” include fines, fees, and restitution, which critics argued was a “poll tax.”

The ACLU and other civil rights groups asked the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court decision upholding the law last week.

The state argued that residents would be “irreparably harmed” if the earlier "patently erroneous injunction is reinstated, enabling hundreds of thousands of ineligible voters to take part in the upcoming elections, one of which is only a month away."

Move blocks hundreds of thousands from voting:

"The Supreme Court stood by as the Eleventh Circuit prevented hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida's primary election simply because they can't afford to pay fines and fees," said Paul Smith of the Campaign Legal Center.

An Appeals court will hear the case in August.

The ACLU’s Julie Ebenstein said she is “hopeful” the court will uphold the May ruling "protecting the right to vote for hundreds of thousands of Floridians in time for the November election."


Related News