Republicans hoping to limit the newly restored voting rights of convicted felons in Florida have won the backing of the state Supreme Court. But it's really just a victory in the court of public opinion, because the justices issued only an advisory opinion Thursday while the real decision is up to the federal courts.
At issue is a law passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature last year to implement a state constitutional amendment approved in 2018 with the support of almost two-thirds of the electorate, restoring voting rights to about 1.4 million Floridians with criminal records.
It is the largest single expansion of voting rights in the country since 18-year-olds got the constitutional right to cast ballots half a century ago. But its reach could be sharply limited if Republicans successfully defend the financial curbs they want to impose.
Organizer: Campaign Legal Center
Join Campaign Legal Center for a conversation between CLC President Trevor Potter and Rick Hasen, Chancellor's Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine and author of "Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy." This event is open to the public and copies of Election Meltdown will be available for purchase.
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Hitting the restart button on the Federal Election Commission during this campaign season is not the answer to better enforcement of the rules regulating money in politics, a coalition of good-government groups says.
Twenty-one such organizations declared their disagreement Monday with a proposal from a bipartisan collection of 31 prominent campaign finance lawyers. Last week the lawyers asked President Trump and the leaders of Congress to come up with an entirely new slate at the FEC to oversee campaign donations and spending in this year's presidential and congressional races.
Since the law allows half the commissioners to favor broad deregulation, because they're Republicans, lax enforcement and gridlock would be the end result of such an overhaul, the reform groups argued. Instead, they called for the confirmation of one or two new commissioners to create a quorum permitting at least minimal oversight through November.
Iowa's Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, is promising to revive her quest to end the state's status as the only place in the country where convicted felons are permanently barred from voting.
She says she is optimistic that when the General Assembly convenes next week, her fellow Republicans in the majority will pass legislation starting a process lasting several years for giving voting rights back to felons as soon as they complete their sentences.
The franchise has been given back to more than 2 million ex-convicts in at least eight states during the past decade, fulfilling a top goal of civil rights groups, who view restoration of the vote as an essential part of making criminals who have done their time productive members of society. Resistance has come mostly from red states. Most freed felons are black or Hispanic and vote reliably Democratic.