A little more detail on the voter purge situation in Florida:
Florida is also in the process of checking voter rolls for newly identified felons. The governor has made it more difficult for felons to regain their voter rights. In 2004, the state was forced to stop its search for felons on the rolls after the method it was using was found to be flawed. In the disputed 2000 election, state officials removed more than 173,000 people identified as felons or ineligible to vote from the rolls. Civil rights groups and county election supervisors said the lists contained many errors.
“Felon voting” is a big issue among GOP base voters. Here’s Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio lecturing Charlie Crist on it:
In their first U.S. Senate primary debate broadcast on FOX News Sunday, former state House speaker Marco Rubio continued to bash Gov. Charlie Crist’s conservative credentials.
“In addition to that, you worked with ACORN and groups like that to give felons voting rights in Florida.”
And sure enough, in 2007 Crist and two state Cabinet members — Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, a Republican, and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat — agreed to relax rules that kept felons from voting. Florida at the time was one of three states that required all felons to go through a cumbersome process requesting clemency, which dates back to 1868, to regain their civil rights — which include the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for public office or apply for a professional license.
That policy shift towards treating felons like human beings with some shot at a normal life obviously could not stand or the Tea Party base would start sending a lot of angry emails. Rick Scott bravely and courageously came down hard on those post-release felons:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other Cabinet-level officials voted unanimously Wednesday to roll back state rules enacted four years ago that made it easier for many ex-felons to regain the right to vote. Now, under the new rules, even nonviolent offenders would have to wait five years after the conclusion of their sentences to apply for the chance to have their civil rights restored.
Rick Scott was involved in the biggest Medicare fraud case in US history. One would think his direct experience with lawbreaking and (presumably) rehabilitation would inspire some basic decency towards felons, “there but for the grace…”, like that, but, no. Maybe white collar crime is different.
Felon voting also came up in the GOP primary, where Mitt Romney followed his usual cowardly playbook. Romney, through his secret-donor PACS, attacked Rick Santorum for being one of three Republican Senators supporting a federal law that would have restored some voting rights to felons:
During Monday’s GOP presidential debate, Mr. Romney at times smugly touted his belief that the voting rights of defendants convicted of violent crimes should not be restored — even if they have served the requisite time behind bars and stayed on the right side of the law after release. “I’m not letting felons who had committed violent crimes to vote,” Mr. Romney said. “I think it’s a position that’s reasonable, and that’s the position I’ve got.” The statement garnered strong applause from the South Carolina debate audience.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will endorse Rick Santorum this afternoon, Ohio Republicans confirm.
DeWine, a Romney endorser, will announce his decision to change endorsements in remarks at the Ohio State House in Columbus, OH. Santorum is currently leading Romney in the state, 42 percent to 24 percent in the latest Rasmussen poll. Sources inside the Romney campaign said DeWine was upset that Romney was critical of Santorum’s position on the felon voting bill, which is mentioned in an ad by Romney’s Super PAC and was brought up in a debate last month. DeWine and Santorum were two of only three Republican Senators who voted for the bill.
If you know anything at all about the criminal justice system in this country, you know that people who are convicted of a felony and serve their sentence have enough trouble just finding a job and keeping a roof over their head while wearing that scarlet F-for-felon after they’re released. They’re already marginalized and up against long odds. The last thing they need when they’re trying to get their lives together is one more state-administered kick in the face on the way out, but conservatives are bound and determined to deliver one anyway. Why? Because they can. The refusal to restore voting rights is just piling on, but the ungenerous, unforgiving and spiteful GOP base apparently demand a disenfranchisement sentence over and above a prison sentence.
Mitt Romney not only enthusiastically endorsed this gratuitous how-low-will-they-go nastiness; he gleefully exploited the issue to pick up a point or two in the primary.