Florida Set For Another Loss In Ex-Felon Voting Case

Voting rights primer
May 11, 2020 2:26 p.m.

This piece is part of our weekly Prime series on voting rights, but it has been moved outside of the paywall while we cover COVID-19.

The trial judge presiding over the blockbuster ex-felon voting case in Florida signaled Wednesday that he was inclined to give ex-felons at least a partial victory in the case, which almost certainly will be appealed. The decision would be the latest in a string of defeats the state has suffered defending the so-called “poll tax” law, which requires that ex-felons pay back all court fees in order to regain the right to vote. Florida GOP legislators passed the law last year after voters approved a constitutional amendment expanding the franchise to certain ex-felons. As the trial wrapped up last week, U.S. District Judge Hinkle hinted he’d be issuing some sort of order to protect the voting rights of ex-felons who were unable to pay back court fees, while noting that he’d do so quickly given the likely appeal.

GOP Resistance To Mail-In Voting Intensifies: As states and private litigators seek to expand absentee voting for the pandemic, Republicans have upped their efforts to try to limit policy changes that make absentee voting easier:

  • The Trump campaign and national GOP has doubled its budget for fighting such efforts in court.
  • Oklahoma GOP legislators are trying to reinstate an absentee voting witness requirement, after a court knocked it down.
  • Republicans want to block a lawsuit seeking to extend the absentee voting deadlines in Pennsylvania.

Dems Claim Victory In Nevada Voter Access Push: Democrats are dropping their lawsuit challenging Nevada’s plans for its pandemic election, after the state’s largest and bluest county announced changes to its policies for the June primary. Clark County will now mail ballots to all its registered voters, not just those listed as active, and the county is setting up additional in-person voting locations as well as a process for remedying issues with voters’ signatures on their absentee ballots.

Dems Expand ‘Four Pillars’ Approach To Pandemic Voting Legal War: Democratic-aligned groups filed several more lawsuits capitalizing on a so-called “four pillars” approach to absentee voting. In addition to a previous lawsuit in South Carolina, last week brought new cases in Florida, North Carolina and Georgia. The lawsuits touch on some or all of the four big absentee voting issues that Democrats are focusing on:

  • Paid postage for sending in ballots
  • Deadlines that allow ballots postmarked on Election Day to be counted
  • Policies that permit certain third party groups to collect and submit absentee ballots
  • Processes that allow voters to fix signature match issues and other discrepancies on their ballots.

California Goes All In On Vote-By-Mail: With an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), California became the first state since the pandemic to adopt a fully vote-by-mail system — in which every voter is mailed a ballot — for November’s elections. Elections in five states were vote-by-mail before the pandemic, and California was already trending in that direction given that over half of its voters were already using absentee ballots to vote in the state. The state will still provide in-person voting opportunities as well.

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