U.S. Supreme Court bars some Florida felons from voting

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court’s ruling barring some convicted felons from voting in Florida.

The ruling could prevent more than 750,000 people with previous felony convictions in Florida — the majority of whom are Black — from participating in November’s election.

The high court’s decision — with a 6-3 vote — comes two weeks after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked a federal judge, who ruled in favor of loosening voting restrictions.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state elections officials are seeking to bar felons from voting unless they’ve paid off all court fees, fines and restitution. District Judge Robert Hinkle said the arrangement was unconstitutional.

Voters rights advocates describe the effort as a “pay-to-vote scheme.”

“This is a deeply disappointing decision,” said Paul Smith, vice president at Campaign Legal Center.

“Florida’s voters spoke loud and clear when nearly two-thirds of them supported rights restoration at the ballot box in 2018. 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. We look forward to continuing to fight for Florida voters so they can participate in the general election in November.”

The 11th Circuit scheduled a hearing for the same day, though it’s unclear if a full ruling from the appeals court will come before the November general election.

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