In a significant reversal that deals a blow to felons’ voting rights in the perpetual swing state of Florida, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled earlier this month that a Florida law requiring people with serious criminal convictions to pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote is constitutional. Civil liberties advocates have decried the payment requirement as a modern-day poll tax. Below is a blog post originally published by the Equal Justice Initiative.

Since the end of the Civil War, states in the American South have used various schemes to deny Black people the right to vote even though that right is protected by the 15th Amendment. Poll taxes were applied against mostly Black voters to create economic barriers to voting throughout most of the 20th century. The Voting Rights Act was passed to eliminate these barriers in the 1960s.

Since passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the criminal justice system has been used to disenfranchise millions of Americans, mostly people of color. In his dissent, Judge Adalberto Jordan called the LFO requirement—which bars poor people from voting but allows those who can pay to vote—“the antithesis of equal treatment.”

“This ruling runs counter to the foundational principle that Americans do not have to pay to vote,” Julie Ebenstein, a senior staff attorney with the A.C.L.U.’s Voting Rights Project, told The New York Times. “The gravity of this decision cannot be overstated. It is an affront to the spirit of democracy.”

Read the full post: Federal Appeals Court Upholds Florida’s “Pay-to-Vote” Scheme

Featured photo at top: Carline Jean / South Florida Sun Sentinel