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.
|Date||Proceedings and Orders|
|July 16, 2019||Complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida by Bonnie Raysor, Diane Sherrill and Lee Hoffman|
|May 24, 2020||Opinion striking down fee-paying requirement issued by district court|
|July 1, 2020||Stay of district court opinion issued by U.S. Court of Appeals for 11th Circuit|
|July 8, 2020||Application filed in Supreme Court to vacate 11th Circuit stay|
|July 16, 2020||Application to vacate stay denied by full Supreme Court. Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan, dissenting.|
|September 11, 2020||Opinion reinstating fee-paying requirement issued by full 11th Circuit|