Common Cause Florida Files Amicus Brief in Jones v. DeSantis

Represented by Covington & Burling LLP, Common Cause Florida today filed an amicus brief in Jones v. DeSantis, urging a federal appeals court to uphold a decision that concluded a Florida law that created wealth-based hurdles to voting is unconstitutional.

Read the brief here.

Statement by Common Cause Chair in Florida Liza McClenaghan

The right to vote is fundamental to our form of government, and expanding the right to vote has been a constant theme throughout our country’s history. Our federal Constitution has been amended time and time again to add more people to the voting rolls, so our government better reflects all the people that it serves.

And that was the intent when Florida’s voters passed Amendment Four, Voting Restoration Amendment: to expand the electorate. It should have added about 1.4 million people to the voting rolls.

Instead, the Legislature passed SB 7066, which conditioned the restoration of voting rights on repayment of civil liens – drastically shrinking the number of people who could register to vote. The law disproportionately affects people of color and establishes a pay-to-vote scheme that is anathema to our country’s values.

Common Cause is dedicated to holding power accountable to the people. We work to encourage civic engagement, public participation, and democracy reform to ensure that public officials and institutions are accountable to and reflective of all Americans.

That’s why we supported Amendment Four, before Florida’s voters approved it; and that’s why we are filing this amicus brief today. Our government is stronger and more representative when our elections include more voters.

Instead, SB 7066 achieved “maximal disenfranchisement” by conditioning rights restoration on the ability to pay.

The ability to participate in our democracy should never be conditioned on economic circumstances.

Broad Coalition Filed Briefs Today Arguing Florida Law Unconstitutionally Bars Hundreds of Thousands of Floridians From Voting Solely Because They Lack Enough Money

ATLANTA – Voting rights advocates today urged a federal appeals court to uphold a decision that concluded a Florida law that created wealth-based hurdles to voting is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law are among the groups challenging the law, which was struck down by a federal district judge, restoring voting rights to hundreds of thousands of Floridians with past felony convictions.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appealed, however, and the lower court ruling was placed on hold until the full Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case on August 18.

The groups today filed their appeals court brief. Find it here.

Plaintiffs also received broad support from amici curiae — “friends-of-the-court” — from across the political spectrum, who filed briefs today supporting the common-sense position that people should not have to pay to vote.

Amici include 19 states (Illinois, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington) and the District of Columbia; the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, an organization of returning citizens who sponsored Amendment 4; a group of former and current election officials and administrators; former Department of Justice attorneys; professors and voting rights scholars; organizations such as R Street and the Cato Institute; and a number of government and criminal justice reform organizations.

At issue is the 2019 law, Senate Bill 7066, which undermined Floridians’ overwhelming 2018 passage of Amendment 4 by making voting contingent on returning citizens’ ability to pay all legal financial obligations prior to being able to register and vote.

In May 2020, the federal court ruled the law violated the U.S. Constitution by discriminating on the basis of wealth. It also held that requiring the payment of costs and fees violates the 24th Amendment — which prohibits poll taxes — and violates due process principles and the National Voter Registration Act. If the appeals court affirms the lower court’s injunction, it may enable hundreds of thousands of returning citizens to vote in the November election.

Read the full ACLU-Florida press release here.