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Raysor v. Desantis

Issues: Whether Florida's statutory requirement that prior felons pay all court costs and fees before regaining the right to vote is an unconstitutional poll tax under the 24th Amendment.
State: Florida
Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit
Status: Ruling by full 11th Circuit upholding the law issued on September 11, 2020

In November 2018, voters in Florida approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that permits people with prior felony convictions to vote once they complete “all terms of” their sentence. In 2019, the state’s legislature enacted a law that defined “all terms of” a sentence to include the payment of all court costs, fees and fines. Voters challenged the 2019 law in federal court, arguing (among other things) that making the right to vote hinge on the payment of court costs and fees violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on poll taxes and discriminates based on wealth.

The district court agreed with the voters and barred the state from enforcing the law. Florida appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which on July 1 granted the state’s request to have the full court hear the case and to put the district court’s ruling on hold until it could decide the state’s appeal.

The voters asked the Supreme Court in early July to reinstate the district court’s ruling in time for the state’s August primary election, but the justices declined to intervene. Justice Sonia Sotomayor – joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan – dissented from that decision, arguing that the issue was “exceptionally important” because the 2019 law would prevent “nearly a million” people from voting.

The 11th Circuit heard oral argument in August and, on Sept. 11, issued a decision that upheld the 2019 law.