A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that ex-felons in Florida cannot vote until they have paid any fees or fines fees owed to the southern US state expected to play a key role in the November presidential election.
The ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit could impact hundreds of thousands of potential voters in Florida, where polls have President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden neck-and-neck.
Winning the swing state and its 29 Electoral College votes is seen as crucial to Trump's hopes for reelection.
In 2018, Florida voters approved an amendment to the state constitution restoring voting rights to convicted felons who had completed their prison sentences.
But the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a bill stipulating that all fees, fines, costs and restitution must also have been paid.
A lower court ruled the requirement unconstitutional, saying it disenfranchises those unable to pay, but the ruling was overturned 6-4 by the Court of Appeals.
"Florida's felon reenfranchisement scheme is constitutional," chief judge William Pryor wrote in the majority opinion.
"It falls to the citizens of the State of Florida and their elected state legislators, not to federal judges, to make any additional changes to it," said Pryor, who has been mentioned as a potential nominee for the Supreme Court by Trump in the event of a vacancy.
The Campaign Legal Center, a voting rights activist group, called the ruling "deeply disappointing" and vowed to continue to fight it.
"Nobody should ever be denied their constitutional rights because they can't afford to pay fines and fees," it said in a statement.