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Supreme Court allows Florida to limit voting rights for some felons

Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP/WESH) — A divided U.S Supreme Court has upheld a stay on a lower court ruling that would have given access to the ballot box to hundreds of thousands of Florida felons.

The decision Thursday from the court not to hear the case is a major blow to the efforts to restore voting rights to hundreds of thousands of Floridians.

The ruling means, for now, that only felons who have fully completed their sentences can regain access to the ballot box under the voter approved ballot measure known as Amendment 4.

Convicted felons in Florida had their voting rights restored with a constitutional amendment passed in November 2018. Amendment 4, which allowed convicted felons who complete “all terms of sentence” the right to vote, passed with nearly 65% of the vote, exceeding the 60% threshold required.

After Amendment 4 went into effect in January 2019, the GOP-led Florida legislature passed, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed, a bill that clarified “all terms of sentence” to include legal financial obligations such as fines, fees and restitution.

The case will be heard next month by a federal appeals court.

The Supreme Court ruling was 6-3, with Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. Sotomayor opposing.

As a result, those affected will likely not be able to vote in the state’s primary election next month and possibly in the crucial presidential election in November.

The high court’s order Thursday comes just four days before the deadline to register for the primary.

The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued the stay while it reviews a ruling by a Florida federal judge. In May, that district court judge ordered the state to give felons access to the ballot box under a voter-approved initiative known as Amendment 4.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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