Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Florida's fight over felon voting keeps intensifying

Forida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Voting rights advocates and Gov. Ron DeSantis are continuing their court battle over Florida's plans for restoring felons' voting rights.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The courtroom tussle over when felons may vote in Florida has taken two fresh turns.

Advocates for voting rights and civil rights last week asked a federal judge to block enforcement of a new law setting conditions on when former convicts can return to the polls — at least until their lawsuit is settled.

In response, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis asked the same judge to dismiss the advocates' litigation, arguing their complaints should be weighed in state (not federal) court.

There are several reasons why the dispute over restoring the franchise to Floridians after they're released from prison has become one of the most closely watched voting rights cases of the decade, even becoming an issue in the presidential campaign.


Because Florida is the nation's most populous tossup state, any significant shift in the voter rolls (in this case, benefitting Democrats) could have decisive consequences. When the initial decision to restore felons' voting rights was made by 64 percent of voters in a referendum last fall, the result was hailed as signaling a cultural shift and also the power of ballot initiatives. And because the Republicans in Tallahassee have since moved to limit the sweep of the decision, the current state of affairs is especially polarized between the people and their government.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

The Legislature passed a law this spring to implement the referendum, which restored voting to felons (except murderers or sexual felons) "who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation." But the law says completing the sentence will include paying all fines, fees and restitutions ordered by the court.

The lawsuit says those conditions amount to the sort of poll tax that's out of bounds under the U.S. Constitution. But the governor says the dispute should be refereed using Florida's constitution.

Fewer than one in five of the state's 1.4 million released felons have repaid all of their outstanding financial obligations, the plaintiffs say.

Some Floridians affected by the amendment have already registered to vote and cast ballots in municipal elections since the law took effect in January, the lawyers argued in a brief with U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, so adding the state law requirements now would sow confusion.

Read More

Blurred image of an orchestra
Melpomenem/Getty Images

The ideal democracy: An orchestra in harmony

Frazier is an assistant professor at the Crump College of Law at St. Thomas University. Starting this summer, he will serve as a Tarbell fellow.

In the symphony of our democracy, we can find a compelling analogy with an orchestra. The interplay of musicians trained in different instruments, each contributing to the grand musical tapestry, offers lessons for our democratic system. As we navigate the complexities of governance, let us draw inspiration from the orchestra's structure, dynamics and philosophy.

Keep ReadingShow less
David French

New York Times columnist David French was removed from the agenda of a faith-basd gathering because we was too "divisive."

Macmillan Publishers

Is canceling David French good for civic life?

Harwood is president and founder of The Harwood Institute. This is the latest entry in his series based on the "Enough. Time to Build.” campaign, which calls on community leaders and active citizens to step forward and build together.

On June 10-14, the Presbyterian Church in America held its annual denominational assembly in Richmond, Va. The PCA created considerable national buzz in the lead-up when it abruptly canceled a panel discussion featuring David French, the highly regarded author and New York Times columnist.

The panel carried the innocuous-sounding title, “How to Be Supportive of Your Pastor and Church Leaders in a Polarized Political Year.” The reason for canceling it? French, himself a long-time PCA member, was deemed too “divisive.” This despite being a well-known, self-identified “conservative” and PCA adherent. Ironically, the loudest and most divisive voices won the day.

Keep ReadingShow less
Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer testifies at the Democratic National Convention in 1964.

Bettmann/Getty Images

60 years later, it's time to restart the Freedom Summer

Johnson is a United Methodist pastor, the author of "Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community" and program director for the Bridge Alliance, which houses The Fulcrum.

Sixty years have passed since Freedom Summer, that pivotal season of 1964 when hundreds of young activists descended upon an unforgiving landscape, driven by a fierce determination to shatter the chains of racial oppression. As our nation teeters on the precipice of another transformative moment, the echoes of that fateful summer reverberate across the years, reminding us that freedom remains an unfinished work.

At the heart of this struggle stood Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper's daughter whose voice thundered like a prophet's in the wilderness, signaling injustice. Her story is one of unyielding defiance, of a spirit that the brutal lash of bigotry could not break. When Hamer testified before the Democratic National Convention in 1964, her words, laced with the pain of beatings and the fire of righteous indignation, laid bare the festering wound of racial terror that had long plagued our nation. Her resilience in the face of such adversity is a testament to the power of the human spirit.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kamala Harris waiving as she exits an airplane

If President Joe Biden steps aside and endorses Vice President Kamala Harris, her position could be strengthened by a ranked-choice vote among convention delegates.

Anadolu/Getty Images

How best to prepare for a brokered convention

Richie is co-founder and senior advisor of FairVote.

As the political world hangs on whether Joe Biden continues his presidential campaign, an obvious question is how the Democratic Party might pick a new nominee. Its options are limited, given the primary season is long past and the Aug. 19 convention is only weeks away. But they are worth getting right for this year and future presidential cycles.

Suppose Biden endorses Vice President Kamala Harris and asks his delegates to follow his lead. She’s vetted, has close relationships across the party, and could inherit the Biden-Harris campaign and its cash reserves without a hitch. As Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) suggested, however, Harris would benefit from a mini-primary among delegates before the convention – either concluding at the virtual roll call that is already planned or at the in-person convention.

Keep ReadingShow less