Florida felons voting, can’t vote until they pay fines.

A federal appeals court dominated by President Donald Trump’s nominees ruled Friday that hundreds of thousands of Florida felons who have completed their sentences cannot vote this fall or in the future unless they pay fees and fines owed to the state.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, along strict ideological lines, could have a major impact on the presidential race because of Florida’s history of razor-thin margins. In 2000, George W. Bush won the White House with a 537-vote victory margin there.

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The appeals court’s ruling was written by Chief Judge William Pryor, who was named to the court by President George W. Bush and is on Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees. The other five judges in the 6-4 majority were appointed by Trump. All four judges in the minority were named by Democratic presidents. 

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The legal battle stems from a constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters in 2018 that allows most felons to vote after their sentences are complete. Those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense are not included.

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In response, the Republican-controlled state Legislature passed and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law requiring that felons first pay all of their financial obligations. 

“Because court costs and fees are legitimate parts of a criminal sentence – that is, part of the debt to society that felons must pay for their crimes – there is no basis to regard them as a tax,” the appeals court ruled. 

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