A 160-year-old Florida law that enforces a lifetime ban on voting rights for convicted felons, even after they have served their prison time and been released into society, was upheld this week by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta. The Associated Press reports that the ruling came in a case filed in Miami before the 2000 presidential election.
Ex-felons sued to regain their voting rights when their sentences are finished, instead of having to apply through a complex system for civil rights restoration, which many never do, or never complete. Jessie Allen, lead attorney for the ex-offenders, said the case will be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court. Activists also hope for action in the Florida Legislature. “I am confident that one way or another it will change,” said Allen, of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Allen argued that the law violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act, was antidemocratic and disproportionally disenfranchised blacks. She said one in five black men in Florida are affected by the law. A total of 600,000 people in Florida are banned; 167,000 are blacks.