Voting rights advocates scrambled this week to understand the impact of an appeals court decision blocking some Florida felons’ eligibility to participate in elections — a blow to efforts to restore voting rights to as many as 1.4 million people in the state.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta last week halted a judge’s order from May that had cleared the way for hundreds of thousands of felons in the state to register to vote. The lower court judge had found that a state law requiring them to pay fines and fees first amounted to an unconstitutional voting tax if they are unable to afford it.
The appeals court has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Aug. 18 — the same day as Florida’s primary election. It’s unclear if the court will decide the issue in time for the November presidential election, or if the court’s eventual ruling will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It is disappointing, and it will surely mean that we are once again in a state of some confusion when it comes to people’s eligibility, as we were before,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, an attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program.