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Press Release

Federal Appeals Court Hearing Concludes in Challenge to Florida Law Obstructing Voting Rights Restoration in Florida

Ultimate ruling may enable hundreds of thousands of Floridians with past convictions to vote in the November election

August 18, 2020
Contact: Julian Brookes, Media Contact, brookesj@brennan.law.nyu.edu, 646-292-8376

For Imme­di­ate Release
August 18, 2020

Contact:
Julian Brookes, Bren­nan Center for Justice, 646–292–8381, brookes­j@bren­nan.law.nyu.edu 

Casey Bruce-White, ACLU of Flor­ida, 786–363–2717, medi­a@aclufl.org 
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU National, 347–514–3984, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org 
Phoebe Plagens, NAACP LDF, 212–965–2235, ppla­gens@n­aacpldf.org 

ATLANTA A federal appeals court hear­ing in a case that could enable hundreds of thou­sands of Flor­idi­ans to register to vote in time for the Novem­ber elec­tion concluded today after two hours of oral argu­ment. 

The case concerns Senate Bill 7066 (SB7066), which was signed into law by Flor­ida Governor Ron DeSantis in 2019. This law made voting rights for hundreds of thou­sands of people with past felony convic­tions contin­gent on payment of all legal finan­cial oblig­a­tions. It directly under­mines Flor­ida voters’ over­whelm­ing passage of the Voting Restor­a­tion Amend­ment 4 in 2018, had restored voting rights to over a million people with past felony convic­tions. 

The Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law, the Amer­ican Civil Liber­ties Union, ACLU of Flor­ida, and NAACP Legal Defense and Educa­tional Fund sued imme­di­ately after the governor signed the legis­la­tion. In May 2020, a district court struck down the law, but the ruling has been put on hold pending an appeal by the governor. 

The appeal was heard by the full Elev­enth Circuit Court of Appeals. If the appeals court affirms the district court’s ruling, it may enable hundreds of thou­sands of Flor­idi­ans to register to vote in time for the Novem­ber elec­tion. 

The follow­ing comments are from:

Sean Morales-Doyle, senior coun­sel at the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law: “By putting a price tag on voting, Flor­id­a’s law viol­ates the consti­tu­tion and cheapens our demo­cracy. We are hope­ful the Elev­enth Circuit will strike down this law, enabling hundreds of thou­sands of Flor­idi­ans with past convic­tions to exer­cise their funda­mental right to vote this Novem­ber and beyond.” 

Julie Eben­stein, senior staff attor­ney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project: “The courts have repeatedly ruled that Flor­id­a’s modern-day poll tax is uncon­sti­tu­tional. People from all across the polit­ical spec­trum recog­nize it is wrong to force Amer­ic­ans to pay to vote. We are hope­ful the appeals court will affirm the trial court’s decision and strike down this law once and for all.”

Daniel Tilley, ACLU of Flor­ida legal director: “We have proudly fought for our clients against Flor­id­a’s uncon­sti­tu­tional attempt to affix a price on a person’s right to vote. It is a fight we will continue to fight until all return­ing citizens in Flor­ida who regained their right to vote through Amend­ment 4 are able to parti­cip­ate in our demo­cracy.” 

Leah C. Aden, deputy director of litig­a­tion at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educa­tional Fund: “Flor­id­a’s pay-to-vote law unjustly denies hundreds of thou­sands of people their right to vote, and is espe­cially harm­ful to Black Flor­idi­ans, who are already other­wise dispro­por­tion­ately impacted by voter suppres­sion tactics. The fact that Flor­ida has the gall to attempt to enforce a pay-to-vote system when it knew that it has no cred­ible record-keep­ing system in place for return­ing citizens or state offi­cials to track their LFOs is completely unac­cept­able. Under no circum­stance should the state be allowed to enforce a law that does not allow people to receive notice of what they owe upfront — and to determ­ine whether they can register, remain on the voter polls, and vote. This law is uncon­sti­tu­tional – and the trial court’s decisions must stand.”

Case back­ground here.

Read this press release online here.