Supreme Court keeps Florida felon voting rights on hold
The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked several hundred thousand Florida felons from exercising their new voting rights in next month's primary, unless they have paid off their financial obligations to the state.
The decision was the first from the high court in one of the past decade's most important, impassioned and complicated stories about expanding democracy.
The justices refused to quickly intervene in an appeals court decision that is preventing felons released from prison from registering and voting until they pay all fines, court costs and restitution. The ruling certainly sidelines them from the Aug. 4 primary and perhaps also the general election, when their votes might prove dispositive in another of Florida's razor-close presidential contests.
Maine will be the first state to use ranked-choice voting in a presidential election, because the Republican Party's attempt to block the alternative voting method has failed.
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap announced Wednesday that a petition drive to block the use of RCV for president this fall had come up 2,000 signatures short of the 63,000 ultimately required.
That amounts to a significant symbolic victory for those who view ranking elections as one of the best ways to bolster democracy, because the system tends to reduce partisan polarization and reward centrist candidates. Mainers have been in the vanguard of the effort to expand use of RCV, adopting it for virtually all contests four years ago and implementing it statewide in 2018, despite a handful of legal and legislative challenges.
Michigan's Court of Appeals has rejected a voting rights group's bid to make the battleground state count absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day.
The decision upholds a state law, similar to those on the books in 33 other states, that says only envelopes that are in the local clerk's office by the time the polls close will be tabulated.
The 2-1 ruling Wednesday came in a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters. The group said it would appeal to the state Supreme Court, setting up the likelihood the rule will be either relaxed or solidified by November — when the counting of a surge of mailed ballots arriving at close to the last minute could decide the allocation of 16 electoral votes.
"Every state should adopt its own version of a voting rights act and other election system reforms to ensure that communities of color can gain equal access in voting and representation," write Campaign Legal Center's Ruth Greenwood and OneAmerica's Roxana Norouzi.
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