Last week was a disaster for voting rights in the courts

“If last week is any indication, the right to vote is unlikely to fare well in a judiciary that is increasingly dominated by Republicans: Voting rights cases out of Florida and Texas handed important victories to the GOP. At least one of those victories is likely to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters altogether. (In Wisconsin, Democrats fared better this week in a ballot-printing case.)

The Florida case involves a longstanding dispute over individuals with felony convictions. In 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment intended to restore felons’ voting rights. But the state’s Republican-controlled legislature almost immediately enacted legislation seeking to prevent most of these individuals from actually being able to vote.

On Friday, in a party-line vote on Jones v. Governor of Florida, the Republican-controlled United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit backed the state legislature’s play — effectively disenfranchising most of the people Floridians voted to reinfranchise.

One day earlier, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit handed down its decision in Texas Democratic Party v. AbbottThat case involves an unusual Texas law that allows voters over the age of 65 to obtain an absentee ballot upon request — thus avoid voting in-person in the middle of a pandemic — but prevents most younger voters from voting absentee.

This kind of age discrimination is highly dubious under the 26th Amendment, which provides that “the right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.” Nevertheless, a majority of the Fifth Circuit panel upheld Texas’s law in Texas Democratic Party.”

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