Voting Rights Updates in Florida
On June 27, the US Supreme Court blocked the citizenship question from being included in the 2020 census, easing Florida’s concerns about immigrants potentially being undercounted, which would have huge civil rights repercussions, as the census is linked to important federal resources and congressional representation.
The majority opinion was based on the US Department of Commerce failing to provide an adequate explanation as to why the question was necessary. Still, it is a possibility that the Department can readdress the question, as the majority opinion indicated that agencies can pursue goals like this as long as they present reasoned decision-making under the Administrative Procedure Act.
The Effects of Including the Citizenship Question
According to the administration, the purpose of including citizenship question was to better enforce the Voting Rights Act; however, this would seriously implicate the civil rights of hundreds of thousands of people in Florida, as it would diminish the accuracy of the population count, which is the sole constitutional function of the census, and of great importance. According to estimates, if the citizenship question was included in every Florida household, almost three percent of next year’s census population in the state would be undercounted, which will be used to determine how many congressional seats Florida receives and how federal funding is divided up.
Poll Tax Challenged
In addition, on June 28, a number of Florida citizens filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s recent measure that mandates that felons first pay all outstanding financial obligations before they have their voting rights restored. There is no question that mandating that all fines, fees, and restitution be paid before voting rights can be restored to felons who have already served their time amounts to a poll tax; creating a disenfranchising effect and separate classes of citizens; deciphering who can vote based on who has more money; and playing on well documented racial gaps in employment and poverty. The lawsuit is in furtherance of Florida voters approving Amendment 4 in 2018, which allows most felons to have the right to vote restored if they have completed all the terms of their sentences (without mandating any other conditions, such as fines). The Amendment, if rightfully implemented without this “poll tax,” is expected to affect 1.4 million Floridians, especially a number of black voters, as they were found to have been much more likely to lose voting rights due to fines and fees that are owed. A number of these fees have reached tens of thousands of dollars per person, and this is only made worse by the fact that any fines unpaid after 90 days are turned over to private debt collectors, who add a 40 percent surcharge on anything unpaid.
Contact Our Florida Civil Rights Attorneys
If you live in Florida and have any questions about civil rights violations that may have been committed against you, contact our experienced Orlando & Miami civil rights lawyers at the Baez Law Firm to find out how we can help.