By Mark Joseph Stern |
The Supreme Court all but guaranteed that nearly 1 million Floridians will be unable to vote in the 2020 election because of unpaid court debts in a shattering order handed down on Thursday. Its decision will throw Florida’s voter registration into chaos, placing a huge number of would-be voters in legal limbo and even opening them up to prosecution for casting a ballot. The justices have effectively permitted Florida Republicans to impose a poll tax in November.
Florida’s ex-felons have a right to vote under both the state and federal constitutions. In 2018, a supermajority of residents approved a constitutional amendment that abolished a Jim Crow–era law permanently disenfranchising convicted felons. GOP lawmakers promptly sabotaged this amendment by passing a law that compelled formerly incarcerated people to pay all fines and fees associated with their sentence. Florida imposes a mind-boggling array of fees on defendants to fund its criminal justice system, and the new law would disenfranchise almost a million of the roughly 1.4 million voters who were poised to regain their voting rights.