Florida voters took a leap forward for voting rights last November in passing Amendment 4. Roughly 65% of Floridians voted to restore voting rights to individuals who had been convicted of felonies once their sentence was complete. In a complete rebuke to Florida voters, Florida Republicans passed legislation (SB 7066) to require individuals with felony records to pay all fees and fines before being able to vote. As Let America Vote Board of Advisors member and Florida state Sen. Janet Cruz explains, the bill places an unconstitutional, racist poll tax on eligible Florida voters, and might prevent one-million Floridians from voting. This is disgusting, Jim Crow-era voter suppression by the Florida GOP. 

Luckily, the ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Foundation, and the Brennan Center have filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the poll tax

Furthermore, an amendment to SB 7066 introduced another GOP voter suppression weapon. The amendment requires “sufficient nonpermitted parking” at early voting sites. This sounds reasonable, but in practice will prevent most college and university campuses from hosting early voting centers, suppressing the voting rights of young voters. In 2018, 60,000 votes were cast on Florida’s college campuses. A federal lawsuit has also been filed to challenge the legality of the parking restriction portion of the law. Lastly, SB 7066 also restricts the absentee ballot application deadline. Overall, SB 7066 is a sweeping bill intended to suppress the vote of Floridians, and is one of the greatest affronts to democracy in 2019.

Florida Republicans also tried to pass legislation (HB 7101) to restrict Floridians ability to vote-by-mail. The bill did not pass this session. The bill would prohibit election supervisors from mailing out vote-by-mail ballots less than eight days before an election and limit the number of days that voters could request a vote-by-mail ballot to ten days before Election Day. This measure could suppress the vote of tens of thousands of Floridians

Florida Democrats proposed several pro-voting-rights bills, but all were thwarted by Republicans. Democratic legislation to enact automatic voter registration (SB 1760) did not advance. And legislation (HB 1365SB 1802) to establish same-day registration, make Election Day a paid holiday, expand vote-by-mail/absentee voting, and to expand the ability to cast a provisional ballot (SB 1386) were all defeated by Republicans.

After Amendment 4 passed in 2018, it seemed like a new day for voting rights had begun. Yet this term the Florida GOP has defied their constituents and gone back to their voter suppression ways.