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The state Supreme Court said it was fair to make ex-felons like Erica Racz (seen registering to vote in January 2019) pay all monetary penalties before regaining the franchise. But it was only an advisory opinion.

Florida top court ruling on felon voting is hardly the final word

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.

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A voter in Florida's closed primary in August 2018. A measure on next November's ballot would create an open, top-two primary system for state elections.

Proposal for an open, top-two primary in Florida secures spot on 2020 ballot

Floridians look increasingly likely to vote next year on a proposal to dramatically alter the way primaries for state offices are conducted.

Officials this week decided the proposed amendment to the state Constitution had garnered enough petition signatures to earn a place on the November 2020 ballot. But the two major parties are still fighting the idea.

If the state embraces the citizen-led ballot measure, which is far from certain, it would grant the ardent wishes of many democracy reformers. They say participation in the process and faith in the system would improve if more people were able to participate more often — and if more candidates on the ballot had realistic chances of winning.

The proposal would do this by creating an open, top-two system for nominating candidates for elections to state offices, including governor and all members of the Legislature, in the nation's third most populous state.

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The 13 states where election security matters most

Along with the candidates and the issues, the 2020 presidential election is also going to be about the voting process itself.

Russian efforts to hack into the voting systems of 2016 have boosted election security to a critical concern this time, prompting states to spend tens of millions buying new equipment, hiring cybersecurity wizards and installing software that warns of intrusions — among numerous other steps. More purchases of hardware, software and expertise are coming in the months ahead.

Whether enough money gets spent, and wisely, won't be known for sure until Nov. 3, 2020 — when the system will be subject to the one test that really matters. And whether the country decides the presidential election result is trustworthy will likely come down to how reliably things work in the relatively small number of states both nominees are contesting.

[Swing states build 2020 hacking protections: Will they hold?]

With 11 months to go, The Fulcrum reviewed information from state elections officials, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Election Assistance Commission and news reports to get a sense of the election security landscape. Here's the state of play in the 13 states likeliest to be presidential battlegrounds.

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"There's a storm brewing in Florida in 2020 — it's not Republicans versus Democrats for the presidency," argues Jeffrey Solomon.

It’s time to let all voters vote in Florida

Solomon is a chiropractor, a former Miami-Dade Democratic Party organizer and an unsuccessful state legislative candidate in 2018.

I recently joined the 30 percent of Florida voters who declare themselves independents. I did it for the same reasons as most ex-partisan voters: I had reached my limit. I was sick and tired of inter-party political hypocrisy and deceptive leadership. Unlike many independents, though, I witnessed the partisan rot from the inside. For over a decade, I was a Democratic Party activist.

Last year, I was the party's nominee for an open seat in the Florida Legislature in a historically Republican district. My party wrote my race off and didn't invest a dime in my election. No Democrat had come close to winning the seat in a generation. I lost by just 290 votes, less than half of 1 percent of the total votes cast.

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