CLC Seeks Supreme Court Intervention to Stop Florida’s Pay-to-Vote Scheme


WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and partners filed an application with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking for an order overturning an appeals court decision entered last week that would prevent hundreds of thousands of Floridians from registering and voting in this critical election year.

A district court decision in May found that Florida’s “pay-to-vote” system, which required people with felony convictions to pay fees and court costs before voting, is an unconstitutional poll tax in violation of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle also held that Florida’s system improperly conditioned voting rights on the basis of wealth in violation of the Constitution, and called Florida’s process for administering this law “an administrative nightmare.” Judge Hinkle’s order not only ensured constitutional voting eligibility requirements but provided much-needed clarity about who can vote in Florida. But the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit created chaos and confusion about voting eligibility by suspending the district court’s decision just weeks prior to Florida’s upcoming registration deadline for the August primary election.

The status of the more than 85,000 people who have already registered since Amendment 4 went into effect on Jan. 8, 2019 is now up in the air. In total, up to a million voters could be affected by the outcome of this case.

“The Supreme Court must allow the District Court’s order to remain in effect as the State’s appeal is reviewed,” said Paul Smith, vice president at CLC. “Florida’s voters have spoken loud and clear – nearly two-thirds of them supported rights restoration at the ballot box in 2018. This case is about the bedrock principle that voting rights cannot be reserved for those who can afford to pay for them.”

Floridians must register to vote by July 20 in order to vote in the state’s August primary on August 18.


Joining CLC in today’s filing is the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, ACLU of Florida, and the law firms Brazil & Dunn LLP and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.