“Florida cannot violate the U.S. Constitution’s protections. The right to vote cannot be contingent on the ability to pay.”
Florida’s state Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of denying convicted felons the right to vote if they do not pay fines and fees associated with their incarceration, a decision that was immediately assailed by rights activists as an unconstitutional and immoral poll tax.
In a statement condemning the ruling (pdf), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Florida, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the ruling “does not—indeed, cannot—alter what the U.S. Constitution requires.”
“A federal court has already held that the state cannot deny people the right to vote because of their inability to pay financial obligations,” the groups said in their statement.
The court ruled that “all terms of sentence” in the law included fines and fees because they are included in “any portion of a sentence that is contained in the four corners of the sentencing document.”
Felons in Florida had their right to vote once restored by public ballot “upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation” in 2018, but the state’s GOP-led government has worked to undermine the right.
As Common Dreams reported, the state GOP in 2019 passed legislation implementing the modern-day poll tax—drawing criticism from progressive groups and rights advocates. The court’s affirmation of the legality of the law is the latest step in the process of reversing the initiative.
“The Florida Supreme Court’s decision is disappointing and cuts the 1.4 million people who voters expressly intended to re-enfranchise almost in half,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director, Nancy Abudu. “By holding Floridians’ right to vote hostage, the Florida Supreme Court is permitting the unconstitutional modern-day poll tax.”
Kira Lerner, a journalist with The Appeal—referring to her reporting with Daniel Nichanian in July 2019 on earlier attempts to re-disenfranchise Florida felons—noted that financial obligations from the sentencing documents make up a small amount of the owed fines.
“Carlos Martinez, the elected public defender in Miami-Dade, told us he estimates that financial obligations are not listed on the sentencing documents for 90 percent of people with outstanding fines and fees in the county,” said Lerner.
However, as Nichanian and Lerner pointed out, that is open to the discretion of the counties.
“This interpretation is up to the individual counties and we’re likely to see a broader interpretation and more disenfranchisement in more conservative counties,” Lerner said.
The bottom line, said the ACLU and affiliated groups, is that the policy represents an unconstitutional poll tax.
“Florida cannot violate the U.S. Constitution’s protections,” the groups said in their letter. “The right to vote cannot be contingent on the ability to pay.”
Jared Kushner vows there will be ‘no drama’ in Trump’s second term: ‘It’s high-competence’
Jared Kushner vowed on Friday that a second term from his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, would be both efficient and drama-free.
The senior White House adviser claimed that Trump's re-election campaign was running smoothly, much as the president's second term supposedly would, while speaking with organizer Matt Schlapp at the Conservative Political Actions Conference (CPAC).
"The way that you see the campaign being run, there's no leaks. There's no drama. I would say it's high-competence, low-drama," Kushner said. "Everything is very efficiently run, and I think that's exemplary of how President Trump would run his second term in office."
How the religious vote in 2020 could tip 6 swing states
Let's look at the bad news from this Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) tracking survey first: despite remarkably lousy-but-stable favorability numbers (41% approve, 55% disapprove), Pres. Trump has a strong chance of being re-elected in November, unless the situation changes significantly between now and then.
To understand why from a religious perspective, consider three factors: partisanship, race, and region. Republicans, whites, and residents of the South and Midwest are most likely to support Trump. White evangelicals tend to be conservative, giving the president a strong base in the South—this much is not surprising. Less obvious is that after Mormons, white Catholics and white mainline Protestants are Trump's strongest supporters in the religious economy.
WATCH: ‘Hoax’ is the word Trump and his top officials keep using when discussing the fatal coronavirus epidemic
President Donald Trump and top officials in his administration keep using the word "hoax" when attempting to downplay the public health and economic threats from the expanding COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.
Public health officials across the globe have warned the virus is real and deadly.
But on Friday, three top administration officials all used the same "hoax" talking point when discussing the epidemic.
It started with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney used the term "hoax" while talking about coronavirus at the far-right CPAC meeting.