Why do so many people, Democrat and Republican alike, assume that felons released from prison will vote Democrat, and that a Florida ballot initiative that passed in 2018, restoring voting to ex-felons, would help Democrats? It’s not clear that’s true, at least not to the extent people assume.

That assumption seems to be at the heart of the political battle in Florida over the circumstances under which felons who have served their time can vote. The Florida legislature passed legislation requiring that an ex-felon, to be deemed to have served his sentence, needed to pay court-assessed fees and financial penalties.

After a District Court issued an injunction against the requirement to pay fees, the 11th Circuit stayed the injunction pending consideration of the full case on the merits. It is unclear how that will impact the November elections, as Courthouse News reported at the time:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday halted the voting registration of thousands of Florida felons who cannot pay fines or fees, just weeks after a lower court threw out the state law mandating payment of all legal financial obligations before voting.

The 11th Circuit decision granted Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ request to suspend voter registration until the full court hears the case.

The Atlanta-based appeals court did not signal if any decision would occur before the November elections. An initial hearing is set for Aug. 11, which is past the registration deadline for Florida’s Aug. 18 primary elections.

The Supreme Court just declined to overturn that Order by the 11th Circuit staying the District Court injunction. You can read the Application to Vacate The 11th Circuit Stay, Opposition, and Reply.

The Supreme Court Order split along conservative-liberal lines (it’s not clear how Breyer voted):

The application to vacate stay presented to JUSTICE THOMAS and by him referred to the Court is denied. JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG and JUSTICE KAGAN join, dissenting from denial of application to vacate stay.

The Sotomayor dissent argued, in part:

This Court’s order prevents thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida’s primary election simply because they are poor. And it allows the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to disrupt Florida’s election process just days before the July 20 voter-registration deadline for the August primary, even though a preliminary injunction had been in place for nearly a year and a Federal District Court had found the State’s pay-to-vote scheme unconstitutional after an 8-day trial. I would grant the application to vacate the Eleventh Circuit’s stay.

Since the 11th Circuit will consider the case in August, it’s very possible that the lower court injunction will be affirmed, and the ex-felons at issue will be able to vote in November. Or that it will be back at the Supreme Court at a more ripe moment. I see the Supreme Court denial of the motion to vacate the 11th Circuit stay as a mostly procedural issue.

So back to my question, why are we assuming this hurts Democrats?

 

 
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