The Supreme Court refused Thursday to let Florida felons who have completed their sentences vote in an upcoming primary without first paying fees, fines and restitution, as the state requires.
Voting rights groups had challenged the requirement as unconstitutional, given that state voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 giving hundreds of thousands of felons the right to vote. Now it will remain in effect while the case is heard next month by a federal appeals court.
The unsigned order was opposed by liberal Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. Sotomayor said it “prevents thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida’s primary election simply because they are poor.”
“Under this scheme, nearly a million otherwise-eligible citizens cannot vote unless they pay money,” Sotomayor said, calling it a “voter paywall.”
The dispute over the voting rights of Florida’s felons could be crucial in this fall’s elections because of its perennial status as a swing state. There are about 775,000 felons in the state who have completed their prison sentences, including some 85,000 who have registered to vote so far.