Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Deputy polling precinct worker Seandra Pinder helps guide a voter to cast their ballot in Florida's primary election at Precinct 321 on August 18, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

'Incredibly Dark Day for Voting Rights': With Support of Trump Judges, Federal Court Upholds Florida Poll Tax Weeks Before Election

"The gravity of this decision cannot be overstated. It is an affront to the spirit of democracy."

Jake Johnson

With the backing of five federal judges appointed by President Donald Trump, the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Friday ruled that Florida can require state residents with past felony convictions to pay off all court fines and fees before they are allowed to register to vote—a mandate that has been condemned as a "modern-day poll tax."

The ruling, which comes just weeks ahead of the November election, could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Floridians by hinging the right to vote on a person's ability to pay often exorbitant fees. Florida's deadline to register to vote in the presidential election is October 5.

"This ruling runs counter to the foundational principle that Americans do not have to pay to vote," said Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. "The gravity of this decision cannot be overstated. It is an affront to the spirit of democracy."

Slate reporter Mark Joseph Stern called the majority's decision (pdf)—penned by William Pryor, a George W. Bush appointee—"one of the most dishonest, misleading, and despicable voting rights opinions I have ever read."

"It is shockingly bad—an affront of the very notion that Americans have a right to vote," added Stern. "This decision was inevitable after Trump flipped the 11th Circuit by appointing five judges, all of whom joined today's appalling opinion, which truly makes me sick to my stomach. This is an incredibly dark day for voting rights."

The decision overturns a May district court ruling that deemed the Florida poll tax unconstitutional—a ruling that was later halted by the 11th Circuit. In July, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the 11th Circuit's order to stand.

Sasha Samberg-Champion, a civil rights attorney, slammed the ruling Friday as "incredibly unjust," tweeting that "not only does the Florida law amount to a poll tax, but Florida's eligibility-restoration scheme is so broken that many people with felony convictions have no way of knowing if they owe anything and, if so, how much."

The court's ruling comes less than two years after Florida voters approved a state constitutional amendment restoring the right to vote to people with past felony convictions after they complete all of the terms of their sentence.

Shortly after Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis took office in 2019, state GOP lawmakers passed legislation requiring those with felony convictions to pay off all fees in order to regain the franchise, a move rights groups warned would undermine the constitutional amendment and institute a "pay-to-vote scheme."

Daniel Tilley, legal director at the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement that "despite today's ruling, the fight is not over."

"Creating roadblocks to voting based on wealth is unconstitutional, wrong, and appalling to anyone who cares about democracy," said Tilley. "Working with our partners, we will continue to inform those voters of their eligibility so that as many returning citizens as possible are able to participate in our democracy."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Tlaib Leads Call for Biden to Take 'Commonsense Steps' to Aid Afghan Evacuees

"Our country has long offered shelter to those seeking refuge from catastrophe. Now is the time to continue that tradition and stand beside Afghan evacuees in need."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Huge Win': Green Groups Applaud Biden Move to Protect Minnesota Watershed

"You don't allow America's most toxic industry next to America's most popular wilderness," said one environmental campaigner.

Brett Wilkins ·


Taking Aim at Predatory Equity Firms, Warren Leads Bill to 'Stop Wall Street Looting'

"Now is the time," asserted Sen. Bernie Sanders, "to end Wall Street's greed, protect workers, and create an economy that works for everyone, not just the 1%."

Brett Wilkins ·


Arizona Groups Demand Sinema 'Stop Obstructing' on Medicare Expansion

The diverse coalition called on the Democratic senator to back "bold drug pricing reform" and "critical improvements to Medicare's coverage" in the reconciliation package.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Should Be a No-Brainer': Biden Pushed to Back Long-Term Child Tax Credit Extension

"Putting money in the pockets of those who need it most is good for the children and families receiving it, good for local businesses, and helps protect this fragile economic recovery."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo