UPDATE: On May 24, 2020, following a trial, the district court ruled in Jones v. DeSantis that Florida’s law conditioning voting on the payment of legal financial obligations ("LFOs") is unconstitutional. The State appealed that decision to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis. On July 1, 2020, the Eleventh Circuit issued an order suspending the district court's ruling pending appeal and granting the State Defendants' motion to hear the case en banc.
On November 6, 2018, nearly 65 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 4, a constitutional amendment that automatically restored voting rights to as many as 1.4 million Floridians, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, who had completed the terms of their sentence including parole or probation.
Prior to Amendment 4, Florida’s constitution permanently disenfranchised all citizens who had been convicted of any felony offense unless the Board of Clemency restored their voting rights. Kentucky and Iowa have similar disenfranchisement policies, however, Florida disenfranchised more than four times as many citizens as those two states combined: between 2010 and 2016, the number of disenfranchised Floridians grew by nearly 150,000 to an estimated total of 1,686,000. In 2016, more than one in five of Florida’s Black voting-age population was disenfranchised.
On January 8, 2019, Amendment 4 became effective.
On May 3, 2019, the Florida legislature voted along party lines to pass SB7066, which prohibits returning citizens from registering to vote unless they pay off all LFOs imposed by a court pursuant to a felony conviction, including those LFOs converted to civil obligations, even if they cannot afford to pay.
On June 28, 2019, SB7066 was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. That same day, the Brennan Center, the ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on behalf of individual returning citizens, the Florida NAACP, and the League of Women Voters of Florida challenging SB7066 under the U.S. Constitution.
On August 9, 2019, the Governor initiated a parallel proceeding by requesting an advisory opinion from the Florida Supreme Court as to “whether ‘completion of all terms of sentence’ under Article VI, section 4 of the Florida Constitution includes the satisfaction of all LFOs—namely fees, fines and restitution ordered by the court as part of a felony sentence that would otherwise render a convicted felon ineligible to vote.” The Florida Supreme Court concluded that the phrase “all terms of sentence,” as used in Amendment 4, includes payment of LFOs imposed in conjunction with a felony conviction, but declined to define the word “completion.” For more information on the Governor’s request for an advisory opinion to the Florida Supreme Court, click here.
On October 18, 2019, the district court granted a partial preliminary injunction, ordering that the individual Plaintiffs in our case must be permitted to vote because they have shown they cannot afford to pay LFOs. The Governor and Secretary appealed that ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
On February 19, 2020, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction entered by the district court. The Defendants petitioned for a rehearing en banc, but the court denied that petition on March 31, 2020.
On March 26, 2020, the district court denied Defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
A trial in the matter began on April 27, 2020. Due to the coronavirus 2019 pandemic, the trial was held by videoconference.
On May 24, 2020, the district court issued a ruling finding Florida’s “pay-to-vote” system unconstitutional in part. Specifically, the court first found that conditioning voting on payment of LFOs a person is unable to pay violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating on the basis of wealth. Second, the court held that the State could not condition voting on repayment of certain LFOs (fees and costs), regardless of inability to pay, because they are unconstitutional “taxes” within the meaning of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment. Third, the court held that the registration form required by SB7066 violates the National Voter Rights Act of 1993. Finally, finding that “the State did nothing” with “ample time” to create a workable system to determine who is eligible to vote, the court instead created a system designed to provide certainty to returning citizens.
The State appealed that decision. On July 1, 2020, the Eleventh Circuit issued an order suspending the district court's ruling pending appeal and granting the State Defendants' motion to hear the case en banc.
Northern District of Florida
- Complaint (June 28, 2019)
- Plaintiffs' Motion for Expedited Discovery (July 3, 2019)
- Supervisors of Elections’ Consolidated Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Complaints (August 2, 2019)
- Florida Governor’s and Florida Secretary of State’s Joint Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaints (August 2, 2019)
- Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction (August 2, 2019)
- Expert Report of Daniel A. Smith, Ph.D. (August 2, 2019)
- Order Setting a Preliminary Injunction Schedule and Denying Supervisor of Elections’ Motion to Dismiss (August 15, 2019)
- Plaintiffs' Memorandum in Opposition to Florida Governor's and Florida Secretary of State’s Joint Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Complaints (August 29, 2019)
- Governor and Secretary of State’s Motion for Stay Pending Rendition of Florida Supreme Court Advisory Opinion (September 10, 2019)
- Order Denying Governor and Secretary of State’s Motion for Stay Pending Rendition of Florida Supreme Court Advisory Opinion (September 12, 2019).
- Supplemental Expert Report of Daniel A. Smith, Ph.D. (September 17, 2019)
- Governor and Secretary’s Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss (September 23, 2019)
- Plaintiffs’ Reply Memorandum of Law in Further Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction or, in the Alternative, for Further Relief (September 27, 2019)
- Order Granting Partial Preliminary Injunction and Denying State Motion to Dismiss (October 18, 2019)
- Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint (October 29, 2019)
- Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion for an Amendment to and Clarification of Order Granting a Preliminary Injunction (October 31, 2019)
- Order Setting a Schedule on the Motion to Expand the Preliminary Injunction (November 1, 2019)
- Governor and Secretary of State's Response in Opposition to Emergency Motion for an Amendment to and Clarification of Order Granting a Preliminary Injunction (November 14, 2019)
- Notice of Appeal (November 15, 2019)
- Plaintiffs' Opposed Motion for Leave to File a Reply to Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Expand the Preliminary Injunction (November 21, 2019)
- Defendants' Motion for Stay Pending Appeal and Incorporated Memorandum of Law (November 27, 2019)
- Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Defendants Governor DeSantis and Secretary of State Lee's Motion for Stay Pending Appeal (December 13, 2019)
- Order Staying the Preliminary Injunction in Part (December 19, 2019)
- Governor and Secretary of State's Motion for Summary Judgment (February 2, 2020)
- Second Supplemental Expert Report of Daniel A. Smith, Ph.D. (March 2, 2020)
- Expert Report of Traci R. Burch, Ph.D. (March 2, 2020)
- Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (March 10, 2020)
- Defendants' Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (March 17, 2020)
- Order Denying Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (March 30, 2020)
- Plaintiffs’ Opening Statement Provided by Sean Morales-Doyle (April 27, 2020)
- Opinion on the Merits (May 24, 2020)
- Request for an Advisory Opinion (May 24, 2020)
- Standards Governing Eligibility (May 24, 2020)
- Notice of Appeal (May 29, 2020)
- Governor and Secretary of State's Motion for a Stay Pending Appeal (May 29, 2020)
- Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Defendants Motion for Stay Pending Appeal (June 12, 2020)
- Order Denying a Stay (June 14, 2020)
- Defendants-Appellants' Motion to Expedite Appeal (December 5, 2019)
- Plaintiffs-Appellees' Opposition to Defendants-Appellants' Motion to Expedite Appeal (December 9, 2019)
- Order on Defendants-Appellants' Motion to Expedite Appeal (December 11, 2019)
- Order on Defendants-Appellants' Motion to Expedite Appeal (December 13, 2019)
- Brief of Defendants-Appellants (December 13, 2019)
- Gruver, Raysor, and Jones Plaintiffs-Appellees' Memorandum of Law in Response to the Court's Jurisdictional Question (December 26, 2019)
- Gruver Plaintiffs-Appellees' Brief (January 10, 2020)
- McCoy Plaintiffs-Appellees' Brief (January 10, 2020)
- Raysor Plaintiffs-Appellees' Brief (January 10, 2020)
- Amicus Brief filed by The Cato Institute and R Street Institute In Support of Appellees (January 17, 2020)
- Appellants' Reply Brief In Support of Appeal of Preliminary Injunction (January 22, 2020)
- Appellants' Motion to Stay (February 11, 2020)
- Order Affirming the Preliminary Injunction (February 19, 2020)
- Order Denying Defendants’ Motion for Rehearing En Banc (March 31, 2020)
- Amicus Brief of Alabama et al. in support of Defendants-Appellants Petition for Initial Hearing En Banc (June 9, 2020)
- Order Granting Defendants-Appellants’ Motion to Expedite Appeal (June 11, 2020)
- Defendants-Appellants’ Petition for Initial Hearing En Banc (June 11, 2020)
- Defendants-Appellants' Motion for Stay Pending Appeal (June 17, 2020)
- Appellees’ Response to Petition for Initial Hearing En Banc (June 19, 2020)
- Appellants’ Brief (June 19, 2020)
- Plaintiffs-Appellees’ Response in Opposition to Motion to Stay Pending Appeal (June 26, 2020)
- Defendants-Appellants' Reply in Support of Motion for Stay Pending Appeal (June 29, 2020)
- Order Granting the Defendants-Appellants’ Motion for Stay Pending Appeal, and Petition for Initial Hearing En Banc (July 1, 2020)
Related Blogs and Reports
- Sean Morales-Doyle, A Major Victory for Voting Rights in Florida, May 27, 2020
- Myrna Pérez, Federal Appeals Court Rules Florida Voting Restrictions Unconstitutional, February 19, 2020
- Tim Lau, Florida Pastor’s Voting Rights in Limbo After Amendment 4 Rollback, October 7, 2019
- Eliza Sweren-Becker, Florida Law Throws Voter Rights Restoration into Chaos, July 11, 2019
- Kevin Morris, Thwarting Amendment 4, May 9, 2019
- Makeda Yohannes, Florida Lawmakers Attempt to Weaken Voter Rights Restoration, March 20, 2019
- Erika L. Wood, Florida: An Outlier in Denying Voting Rights, December 16, 2016
- Rebekah Diller, The Hidden Costs of Florida's Criminal Justice Fees, March 23, 2010
- Alicia Bannon et al., Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry, October 4, 2010
- Racial Bias in Florida’s Electoral System, Brennan Center for Justice & Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, January 2006
Related Press Releases
- Federal Court Rules Florida Law That Undermined Voting Rights Restoration Is Unconstitutional, May 24, 2020
- Groups Sue to Block New Florida Law That Undermines Voting Rights Restoration, June 28, 2019
- Groups File Motion for Preliminary Injunction to Block SB7066, August 3, 2019
- Federal Court Rules the Right to Vote in Florida Cannot Be Denied on Account of Wealth, October 18, 2019
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