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.
In recent years, competition between the Democratic and Republican parties to gain a tactical edge in elections has centered on technology — who had the most sophisticated system for identifying potential voters and getting them to the polls.
This time, though, the leaders of the Democratic congressional campaign organizations have settled on a new strategy: going to court.
The party has gained scattershot headlines in recent months by filing federal lawsuits in mostly purple states, alleging an array of their election laws are unconstitutional voting rights violations or contradict federal law. But the ambitions of this strategy, and the size of the investment, did not become clear until last week.
Citizens would be automatically registered to vote, or they could register online or on Election Day, under a comprehensive voting rights proposal unveiled Friday by Mike Bloomberg.
He is the last of the prominent Democratic candidates for president to detail an agenda for making the democratic process work better. The plan was unveiled as Bloomberg took his campaign to Georgia for an appearance with Stacey Abrams, one of the most prominent civil rights advocates in the country.
"The right to vote is the fundamental right that protects all others, but in states around the country it is under attack," Bloomberg said in a statement released by his campaign.
Fair Fight, the new voting rights advocacy group created by Democrat Stacey Abrams, says it's raised an astonishing $14.6 million just in the last six months.
Abrams created the political action committee after her narrow loss to Republican Brian Kemp in the Georgia governor's race of 2018. She lost her bid to become the nation's first black female governor, Abrams said, because of widespread voting problems including malfunctioning machinery, excessive wait times, canceled or missing voter registrations, and challenged absentee ballots. In response, Fair Fight has sued the state in federal court while launching an expansive campaign to ease access to the ballot box and boost education about the voting process in time for the presidential election.
The fundraising haul for the last six months of 2019 suggests the effort has hit a chord on the left. By way of comparison, the combined fundraising for the top 18 leadership PACs for members of Congress was $4 million less than what Fair Fight brought in.