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Is Florida’s Measure Restricting the Voting Rights of Ex-Felons Legal?

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a measure approved by state lawmakers that makes the restoration of voting rights for people convicted of felonies contingent on having paid off all criminal debt associated with their conviction.

A coalition of civil rights groups immediately filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the new law by having it declared unconstitutional.

I’m a political scientist who researches the effects of restricting and restoring the voting rights of people convicted of crimes. I believe it’s not yet clear whether the new law will withstand this legal challenge. But if the law stays on the books, it would greatly reduce the number of people whose voting rights are restored in Florida.

Voting Rights in Florida

Florida used to have the nation’s strictest disenfranchisement law for people convicted of felonies.

In most states, voting rights are automatically restored after a person is released from prison, or after they finish parole or probation. In comparison, under Florida‘s old system, a citizen with a felony conviction would never be allowed to vote again, unless they were granted clemency by a four-member board that typically had a long waitlist of applicants.

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