One of the few bright spots in Florida’s 2018 election results was the passage of Amendment 4, the ballot initiative to automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons (excluding those convicted of murder or sex crimes) who complete their sentences. Amendment 4 won in a landslide — nearly 65% voted for it. It brought Florida’s draconian eligibility restrictions in line with the sane states.
The current, Republican-authored system effectively disenfranchises a staggering number of African American citizens, something like one in five, IIRC. Many of those Floridians were convicted long ago on bullshit charges based on racist laws that let white kids off for possession of powered cocaine but threw the book at black kids busted with crack.
The current system requires ex-felons to grovel in front of (Republican) governors and (Republican) cabinet officials for a tiny chance of regaining their rights, and they can’t apply for clemency until five years after they complete all of their sentence, including parole, etc.
It’s a terrible system — even a large portion of the drooling yahoos who voted for Trump recognized that. But regardless of the clear will of the people of Florida, the incoming Republican governor and statehouse Republicans are in no hurry to implement the law:
In an interview with the Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis said that Amendment 4, which was approved by 64.6 percent (or 5.2 million) of Florida voters, shouldn’t go into effect as intended by the people who wrote the ballot measure.
Instead, DeSantis said the amendment, which would restore voting rights for most ex-felons who have served their sentences, should take effect after state lawmakers pass “implementing language” in a bill that is then sent to him for his signature.
That means at least a two-month delay in restoring voting rights. Conveeeeeeniently, that delay could help Republicans in special elections, like the Tampa mayoral race. And I have a feeling the Republicans will find ways to slow-walk it even more or fuck with the language to their advantage given the opportunity. Here’s a sample of the bad-faith “concerns” statehouse Republicans are raising to delay implementation:
“How do you evaluate eligibility?” [Dennis] Baxley [R-Ocala] told the Times/Herald last week. “I still have some questions … What were the terms of their sentence? Do they have to meet probation? Did they complete their debt to society or not?”
Gee, what a mystery…until you look at the language on the ballot, which Baxley presumably had an opportunity to view as he was voting for himself and fellow Republicans:
This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.
Any other questions, Baxley, you goddamned nitwit?
Ballot initiatives in Florida are amendments to the state constitution. Initiatives require sponsors to collect more than 750K signatures for the amendment to appear on the ballot, and it must achieve a 60% or higher super-majority to become law. Those are high hurdles, and Amendment 4 cleared them all.
I’m an introvert, and I spent hours accosting strangers on street corners and in parking lots to collect signatures to get Amendment 4 on the ballot, so it pisses me off in a personal way to see these vote-suppressing goobers shit all over the will of the people. This is bullshit.