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.
More than 100 democracy reform organizations are making another attempt at convincing Congress to take action to limit the influence of big money in politics.
A letter signed by 123 organizations was sent to members of the House of Representatives on Thursday, urging them to cosponsor a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to limit how much can be raised and spent to influence elections. Some of the organizations include American Promise, Common Cause, End Citizens United Action Fund, the NAACP, Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG and Wolf-PAC.
If successful, this amendment would effectively undo the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which uncapped campaign finance limits.
Currently, 139 House members — all Democrats and one lone Republican, Rep. John Katko of New York — have backed the amendment proposal. But the resolution has remained in committee since it was introduced in January.
What had been hailed as a major victory for those who favor restoring voting rights for convicted felons has now become a legal battle over exactly how that process should work.
On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that requires those seeking to recover their voting rights to first pay all fines and fees that they owe. In swift order, voting and civil rights groups then filed legal action seeking to block the requirement.
Last fall, voters in Florida passed by a wide margin a state constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to Floridians "after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation."