Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Florida felons win strong vote of support in federal appeals court

Clarence Singleto, Florida felon registering to vote

Clarence Singleton registers to vote under a Florida law allowing convicted felons to regain their voting rights. Efforts to require felons to first pay all outstanding fines and fees before being eligible have prompted several lawsuits.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Wednesday continued to block Florida's new law denying the vote to criminals who have served their time but not made payments that resulted from their convictions.

The decision, by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, is symbolically important to the cause of felon voting rights. But it's also quite narrow. It maintains an injunction on enforcement of the law imposed by a federal trial judge, but that ruling only covered the 17 felons who have sued.

As many as 1.4 million other Floridians, as a result, still will not be able to vote March 17 in the Democratic presidential primary, the third-richest delegate prize of the nominating contest.

Besides, the appellate court's ruling came a day after the deadline for registering to vote in that primary.

The next turning point begins April 6, when a federal court opens a hearing in Tallahassee on the merits of the case. That's when a judge will hear arguments that the law — which says felons may resume voting only after paying all fines, court costs and restitution imposed as part of their sentences — amounts to an unconstitutional modern-day poll tax.

The fight stems from how the Republican-run state government decided to implement a state constitutional amendment, adopted in 2018 with almost two-thirds of the vote, that restored the franchise for all Floridians with felony convictions upon completion of their sentences.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Months later, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation written by his GOP colleagues in the Legislature saying that completing a sentence would mean more than release from prison and finishing parole and probation – it also requires fulfilling all monetary obligations.

Civil rights groups and felons affected by the law filed suit, arguing the stipulation disproportionately targeted the poor and people of color. Although the Florida Supreme Court sided with the state, its opinion did not have the force of law, leaving the final decision in the federal court system.

"The long and short of it is that once a state provides an avenue to ending the punishment of disenfranchisement — as the voters of Florida plainly did — it must do so consonant with the principles of equal protection and it may not erect a wealth barrier absent a justification sufficient to overcome heightened scrutiny," the three-judge appeals panel concluded.

The ACLU of Florida, among others, celebrated the decision as a "huge victory for our brave clients!" A spokesman for DeSantis said the state would ask the entire 11th Circuit to reconsider the ruling.

Read More

Trump and Biden at the debate

Our political dysfunction was on display during the debate in the simple fact of the binary choice on stage: Trump vs Biden.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The debate, the political duopoly and the future of American democracy

Johnson is the executive director of the Election Reformers Network, a national nonpartisan organization advancing common-sense reforms to protect elections from polarization.

The talk is all about President Joe Biden’s recent debate performance, whether he’ll be replaced at the top of the ticket and what it all means for the very concerning likelihood of another Trump presidency. These are critical questions.

But Donald Trump is also a symptom of broader dysfunction in our political system. That dysfunction has two key sources: a toxic polarization that elevates cultural warfare over policymaking, and a set of rules that protects the major parties from competition and allows them too much control over elections. These rules entrench the major-party duopoly and preclude the emergence of any alternative political leadership, giving polarization in this country its increasingly existential character.

Keep ReadingShow less
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Voters should be able to take the measure of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., since he is poised to win millions of votes in November.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty Images

Kennedy should have been in the debate – and states need ranked voting

Richie is co-founder and senior advisor of FairVote.

CNN’s presidential debate coincided with a fresh batch of swing-state snapshots that make one thing perfectly clear: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. may be a longshot to be our 47th president and faces his own controversies, yet the 10 percent he’s often achieving in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and other battlegrounds could easily tilt the presidency.

Why did CNN keep him out with impossible-to-meet requirements? The performances, mistruths and misstatements by Joe Biden and Donald Trump would have shocked Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, who managed to debate seven times without any discussion of golf handicaps — a subject better fit for a “Grumpy Old Men” outtake than one of the year’s two scheduled debates.

Keep ReadingShow less
I Voted stickers

Veterans for All Voters advocates for election reforms that enable more people to participate in primaries.

BackyardProduction/Getty Images

Veterans are working to make democracy more representative

Proctor, a Navy veteran, is a volunteer with Veterans for All Voters.

Imagine this: A general election with no negative campaigning and four or five viable candidates (regardless of party affiliation) competing based on their own personal ideas and actions — not simply their level of obstruction or how well they demonize their opponents. In this reformed election process, the candidate with the best ideas and the broadest appeal will win. The result: The exhausted majority will finally be well-represented again.

Keep ReadingShow less
Person voting at a dropbox in Washington, D.C.

A bill moving through Congress would only allow U.S. citizens to vote in D.C. municipal eletions.

Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

The battle over noncitizen voting in America's capital

Rogers is the “data wrangler” at BillTrack50. He previously worked on policy in several government departments.

Should you be allowed to vote if you aren’t an American citizen? Or according to the adage ‘No taxation without representation’, if you pay taxes should you get to choose the representatives who help spend those tax dollars? Those questions are at the heart of the debate over a bill to restrict voting to U.S. citizens.

Keep ReadingShow less
people walking through a polling place

Election workers monitor a little-used polling place in Sandy Springs, Ga., during the state's 2022 primary.

Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What November election? Half of the U.S. House is already decided.

Troiano is the executive director ofUnite America, a philanthropic venture fund that invests in nonpartisan election reform to foster a more representative and functional government. He’s also the author of “The Primary Solution.”

Last month, Americans were treated to an embarrassing spectacle: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) tradingpersonal insults related to “fake eyelashes” and a “bleach blonde bad built butch body” during a late-night committee hearing. Some likened it to Bravo’s “Real Housewives” reality TV series, and wondered how it was possible that elected officials could act that way and still be elected to Congress by the voters.

The truth is, the vast majority of us don’t actually elect our House members — not even close. Less than 10 percent of voters in Crockett’s district participated in her 2024 Democratic primary, which all but guaranteed her re-election in the safe blue district. Greene ran unopposed in her GOP primary — meaning she was re-elected without needing to win a single vote. The nearly 600,000 voters in her overwhelmingly red district were denied any meaningful choice. Both contests were decided well before most voters participate in the general election.

Keep ReadingShow less