ATLANTA, GA (WKRG) – A federal appeals court weighed in Wednesday on Florida’s battle over restoring voting rights to most felons. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta suspended a lower court ruling and granted the state of Florida’s request to stop the expansion of voting rights to hundreds of thousands of voters.
“Today’s decision is a setback,” said Paul Smith, vice president of Campaign Legal Center which sued last year on behalf of three individual plaintiffs and all Florida citizens.
in 2018, by a two-to-one margin, Florida citizens voted to restore voting rights to most felons who had served their prison and parole time. In 2019, however, the Florida Legislature ruled that those felons had to pay all fines and restitution before being able to vote.
In May, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled the Legislature’s action constituted a poll tax, and that Floridians genuinely unable to pay their financial obligations could not be denied the right to vote.
“The district court’s decision to block Florida’s pay-to-vote system followed clear Supreme Court precedent,” Smith said. “We are hopeful that the court of appeals will follow suit and confirm once and for all that wealth cannot determine a person’s eligibility to vote.”
Florida holds primary elections on August 18, and the deadline to register for the primary is July 20. While the lower court ruling is suspended, the appeals court will hear the full case at a later date.