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CONTACT: Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU National, 347-514-3984, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org; Casey Bruce, ACLU of Florida, 786-363-2717, media@aclufl.org; Phoebe Plagens, NAACP LDF,  212.965.2235, pplagens@naacpldf.org; Derek Rosenfeld, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, 646-292-8381, rosenfeldd@brennan.law.nyu.edu 

January 16, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, FL — The Florida Supreme Court’s advisory opinion does not — indeed, cannot — alter what the U.S. Constitution requires. A federal court has already held that the state cannot deny people the right to vote because of their inability to pay financial obligations. The U.S. Constitution also prohibits making voting rights contingent on the payment of taxes, and it requires Florida to provide due process to citizens before taking their voting rights away. Senate Bill 7066 violates these prohibitions, and nothing about the Florida Supreme Court’s opinion changes that.

This advisory opinion does not impact our ongoing federal litigation to secure the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of returning citizens. The state court was not asked to, and did not, determine when all terms of sentence are “complete.” The Florida Legislature cannot ignore U.S. constitutional protections when interpreting when a sentence is completed for the purpose of restoring voting rights. If it does, we are confident the federal courts will correct it. The court’s ruling also continues to leave plenty of room for the Florida Legislature to correct SB7066 and allow people who are unable to pay their obligations to vote. 

We should all be concerned by Governor Ron DeSantis’ efforts to manipulate and engineer a result that attempts to eliminate the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Floridians. This deliberately constrained court proceeding — created by the Governor — prevented the state court from hearing from the very people impacted by SB7066. 

Floridians voted to end lifetime voter disenfranchisement and to automatically restore voting rights to returning citizens in the state. They sought to end existing remnants of Florida’s disgraceful Jim Crow era, but the Governor’s actions effectively uphold them.

Florida cannot violate the U.S. Constitution’s protections. The right to vote cannot be contingent on the ability to pay. We will continue fighting in federal court for our clients and the hundreds of thousands of Floridians' voting rights that SB7066 seeks to unconstitutionally and permanently eliminate.

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