In less than an hour yesterday, Florida Governor Rick Scott denied the right to vote to hundreds of thousands, maybe as many as a million, Florida citizens, turning back the clock decades and making Florida the most punitive state in the country when it comes to disenfranchising people with criminal convictions in their past.
The Florida constitution denies the right to vote for life to anyone with a felony conviction, unless he is granted clemency by the governor. Essentially it gives the governor, an elected official, the power to decide who will (or won't) be allowed to vote in the next election.
The new clemency rules not only roll back reforms passed by former Governor Charlie Crist, they are far more restrictive than those in place under former Governor Jeb Bush. Under the new rules:
All of this has to happen just to have the opportunity to ask for one's rights back. Even after the waiting period, the application, and the hearing, anyone could be summarily denied with no reason or explanation. And if that happens, he would have to wait another two years before he can start the process all over again.
Governor Scott is playing three-card Monte with one of our most fundamental rights and steering his state straight back to Jim Crow. Florida's disenfranchisement law is a relic of a discriminatory past, enacted after the Civil War in response to the Fifteenth Amendment, which forced the state to enfranchise African-American men. The voting ban was a direct attempt to weaken the political power of African Americans, and it continues to have its intended effect today. Even prior to yesterday's change, African Americans were excluded from the polls at more than twice the rate of other Florida citizens. Not counting those currently serving a criminal sentence, 13% of the voting-age African-American population in Florida has lost the right to vote. Nearly a quarter of those who are disenfranchised in Florida are African-American.
These numbers are sure to go up under the new rules. The new "arrest-free" waiting period requirement will undoubtedly increase the disproportionate impact on minorities. Government statistics show that nearly 35% of all arrests, and 43% of drug arrests, in Florida in 2009 were African-American, even though African Americans make up just 16% of the state's population.
By shutting the door of democracy in the face of those trying to rejoin the community, Governor Scott ignored broad consensus among law enforcement and criminal justice professionals that allowing people to vote when they are back in the community encourages participation in civic life and helps rebuild ties to the community that motivate law-abiding behavior. The country's premier law enforcement organizations, including the American Correctional Association, the American Probation and Parole Association, the Association of Paroling Authorities International and the National Black Police Association have all passed resolutions supporting automatic restoration of voting rights.
Florida's law is now the most restrictive in the country. Since 1997, 23 states have either restored voting rights or eased the restoration process; nine of these states repealed or amended lifetime disenfranchisement laws. These changes have occurred under both Republican and Democratic governors. There has been a national recognition that harsh criminal disenfranchisement laws are a relic of a discriminatory past, are antithetical to the fundamental principles of our democracy, and do nothing to protect public safety or promote successful reentry.
Several times during the brief public meeting yesterday, Governor Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi referred to voting as "privilege" that should be "earned." But the right to vote is not something to be kept in the Governor's pocket, handed out only as a special treat to his favorite Floridians. To be sure, there once was a time in our country when only the privileged - wealthy, white men - were allowed to vote. But Americans have fought in the streets and in the courts to realize the true promise of our democracy - that all Americans should have a voice in our government. The Governor cannot bury that history under a bunch of bureaucratic hurdles.
Link to original Huffington Post article
Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) effort to save his state’s Medicaid program money on the backs of the poor just backfired.
In 2012, the Scott administration lobbied the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow it to limit the number of times that Medicaid beneficiaries can frequent emergency rooms to six visits. The Obama administration rejected that request, arguing that it constitutes a violation of the Social Security Act by placing “an arbitrary limit” on a legally mandated benefit, and that it has the potential to harm poor patients,...
Sy Mukherjee | Think Progress 04 Mar 2014 Hits:592 Florida
Late on a Tuesday evening, at a Dupont Circle bistro that serves $11 mojitos, the congressman and the undercover officer talked about cocaine.
They talked about how much the congressman would have to pay for it. They talked about the quality of the drug for sale. Finally, they made a deal: $250 for 3.5 grams, an amount generally bought for personal use.
Outside, in a car, the drug and money changed hands. And then, suddenly, there were feds outside the vehicle.
Before that moment, Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) had built a remarkable double...
David A. Fahrenthold, Keith L. Alexander and Sari Horwitz | The Washington Post 21 Nov 2013 Hits:447 Florida
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) faced hecklers angry with his leadership on immigration reform at a Friday Tea Party summit in his home state.
According to reports, Rubio was met with cries of "No amnesty!" as he gave an address during the opening session of the Americans for Prosperity's Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando.
The Florida senator joined a handful of other potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, at the summit on Friday. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will keynote Saturday's closing session.
Alexandra Jaffe | The Hill 01 Sep 2013 Hits:766 Florida
(Photo: Phil Sears/ AP; Thumb: Dream Defenders/ Twitter)
Civil rights icon Harry Belafonte joins mass rally against discrimination
"I’m here because you called. I’m here because I am a part of your history," notable civil rights activist and musical icon Harry Belafonte declared Friday to a crowd of hundreds of demonstrators inside the main rotunda of the Florida capitol building.
The rally, billed as #theTakeover, was one of a number of demonstrations staged by the Dream Defenders since the group took residence in the capitol on July 16 in an ongoing sit-in to...
Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams 31 Jul 2013 Hits:566 Florida
When Florida lawmakers recently voted to ban all Internet cafes, they worded the bill so poorly that they effectively outlawed every computer in the state, according to a recent lawsuit.
In April Florida Governor Rick Scott approved a ban on slot machines and Internet cafes after a charity tied to Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll was shut down on suspicion of being an Internet gambling front -- forcing Carroll, who had consulted with the charity, to resign.
Florida's 1,000 Internet cafes were shut down immediately, including Miami-Dade's Incredible Investments, LLC, a café that provides online services to migrant workers,...
Huffington Post 08 Jul 2013 Hits:880 Florida
Members of the Florida state Legislature rarely agree on anything. It's unusual for a bill to get unanimous support from the body. But as it turns out, there is one thing that both Republicans and Democrats really love: wildflowers. Florida lawmakers in both houses of the Legislature voted a collective 157 to 0 this spring to increase the fee for a special Florida wildflower license plate from $15 to $25 starting in July. The proceeds would have gone to the Florida Wildflower Foundation, which for 13 years has been using...
Stephanie Mencimer | Mother Jones 18 Jun 2013 Hits:831 Florida
Fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillian didn't threaten police. He didn't attack them. He wasn't armed. All the black teenager did was appear threatening by shooting Miami-Dade police officers a few "dehumanizing stares," and that was apparently enough for the officers to decide to slam him against the ground and put him in a chokehold.
During Memorial Day weekend, McMillian was rough-housing with another teenager on the sand. Police approached the teen on an ATV and told him that wasn't acceptable behavior. They asked him where his parents were, but MicMillian attempted to walk...
Kyle Munzenrieder | Miami NewTimes 30 May 2013 Hits:821 Florida
The Florida teenager who was arrested two weeks ago for causing a small explosion on the campus of her high school will not be charged with a crime. Kiera Wilmot, 16, was arrested by police in Bartow, Florida, after conducting an unauthorized science experiment which lightly damaged an eight ounce plastic water bottle.
At the time, Wilmot faced possible charges for “possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school sponsored event or on school property.” If she had been convicted, she could have faced up to five years in prison.
Ned Resnikoff | MSNBC.com 16 May 2013 Hits:900 Florida
Two top Democratic fundraisers in Florida have committed to providing the money and know-how to get the question of legalizing medical marijuana on the state ballot in 2014.
"I'm prepared to keep raising money and writing checks until I get the signatures to put it on the ballot," attorney John Morgan said late on Tuesday.
Morgan, who routinely hosts presidents and national political figures at his Orlando-area home, recently signed on as chairman of People United for Medical Marijuana-Florida, a grassroots campaign that operated on a shoestring until now.
Morgan was recruited by...
Barbara Liston | Reuter's 22 Apr 2013 Hits:789 Florida
On September 17, 2011 Occupy Wall Street coalesced into sudden view, built from long work by many organizers, the promptings of Adbusters magazine, and the accumulated frustration, anger and desperation of decades of escalating class warfare by financial and corporate elites against ordinary people. A small group of young people near Lake Worth, Florida recognized themselves in the actions of the mostly young people in New York, and began to plan their own Occupation.
People on local union, Democratic Party, progressive and other e-mail lists were invited to a rally at...
Mike Budd | Palm Beach Progressive Post 22 Jan 2013 Hits:696 Florida
Internal email messages uncovered by Health News Florida reveal that Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) is knowingly citing inaccurate cost estimates to justify his refusal to expand Florida’s Medicaid program. Though the governor’s office is fully aware that the numbers are wrong, Scott continues to use them anyway, the documents show.
Florida, which has one of the highest rates of uninsurance in the nation, could extend health coverage to about one million low-income residents by accepting Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion. But the governor — an ardent Obamacare opponent — has...
Tara Culp-Ressler | Think Progress 08 Jan 2013 Hits:1070 Florida
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who was elected as the state's chief executive as a Republican and then ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate as an independent, announced on Twitter on Friday night that he's switching to the Democratic Party.
The announcement fanned speculation that Crist was gearing up to seek to regain his old job from Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.
Crist sent out a Tweet that said, "Proud and honored to join the Democratic Party in the home of President (at)Barack Obama!"
The Tweet included a...
Gary Fineout | Associated Press 08 Dec 2012 Hits:1063 Florida
As the St. John Progressive Missionary Baptist Church vans pulled up to the C. Blythe Andrews library polling place to let congregants out to vote, a line already snaked out the voting entrance. A table was set up on one end of the library’s parking lot where volunteers served fried fish and hush puppies. A DJ blared gospel music that could be heard blocks away. It was after-church Sunday, the first and only Sunday of “Souls to the Polls” in most of Florida, and the second...
Brentin Mock and Voting Rights Watch | the Nation 30 Oct 2012 Hits:952 Florida
On the last day to register for the 2012 election, new Democratic voters outnumber the GOP by six-to-one or more.
Don’t get depressed by the latest polls with Mitt Romney pulling ahead in Florida or by reports of the GOP’s plans to steal the election there by falsifying Democratic voter registration files. Tuesday is the final day to register to vote for the presidential election in Florida and Democrats have trounced the GOP’s efforts to register voters.
Consider these numbers from the Florida Secretary of State’s...
Steven Rosenfeld | AlterNet 09 Oct 2012 Hits:1555 Florida
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Seeking to capitalize on his commanding debate performance last week, Mitt Romney tried to turn the enthusiasm of large crowds during a three-day visit to Florida into momentum to carry a state that, by all accounts, is crucial to his path to the White House.
His effort to capture a state that President Obama won in 2008 came on a day when the usual pattern of the race was reversed: while Mr. Romney has been criticized by some Republicans for spending too...
Trip Gabriel | The New York Times 08 Oct 2012 Hits:872 Florida
Despite the heat and threat of thunderstorms, about 500 African-Americans are gathered in Rowlett Park for an end-of-summer day of barbecuing, dancing and playing cards. It’s the fifth annual Old School Picnic, a community park jam that brings together two black neighborhoods that were torn apart when the College Hill and Ponce de Leon public housing projects were razed in 2000. Earlier that morning, President Barack Obama held a massive campaign rally in nearby St. Petersburg, trying to turn out every last...
Brentin Mock | The Nation 29 Sep 2012 Hits:1098 Florida
Florida elections officials said Friday that at least 10 counties have identified suspicious and possibly fraudulent voter registration forms turned in by a firm working for the Republican Party of Florida, which has filed an election fraud complaint with the state Division of Elections against its one-time consultant.
The controversy in Florida -- which began with possibly fraudulent forms that first cropped up in Palm Beach County -- has engulfed the Republican National Committee, which admitted Thursday that it urged state parties in seven swing states...
By Matea Gold, Joseph Tanfani and Melanie Mason | LosAngeles Times Politics 29 Sep 2012 Hits:1245 Florida
In a partial victory for voter rights and immigrant groups, Florida residents who were mistakenly removed from the voter rolls this year because the state classified them as noncitizens will be returned to the rolls and allowed to vote in November.
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Lizette Alvarez | The New York Times 13 Sep 2012 Hits:1026 Florida
Florida's Republican governor Rick Scott loathes Obamacare so much that he turned down $40 million in federal health care funds that would keep hundreds of disabled kids at home with their parents, rather than warehoused in nursing homes. So says the Department of Justice, whose civil rights division recently investigated the situation in Florida.
ABC News reported this weekend that, in a letter to Florida's attorney general, the Justice Department cited the case of a "5-year-old child, a quadriplegic after a car accident, who had been...
Stephanie Mencimer | Mother Jones 11 Sep 2012 Hits:4277 Florida
On September 12, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida and partner organizations will host a coalition of individuals impacted by restrictive voting regulations in Florida sharing their stories about combating disenfranchisement and informing voters about their rights at “Let Me Vote: The Faces of Voter Suppression Become the Voices of Voter Empowerment.” The event marks the launch of the ACLU of Florida’s “Let Me Vote” campaign, part of a nationwide ACLU program of the same name aiming to get accessible,...
ACLU Florida 10 Sep 2012 Hits:861 Florida
They were classic buttoned-up conservatives, but I couldn’t believe my ears. “Are you guys performance artists?” "No," Stevens snorted.
Just a few minutes earlier, two men who identified themselves as Robert Stevens and John Nelson had handed me a flyer. It explained that they wanted the state of Florida to pass a “Protect the Polls law” under which “anyone suspected of committing voter fraud can be fired upon – provided the weapon is registered and operated by its licensed owner.”
The two 28-year-olds, who said...
Arun Gupta | AlterNet 30 Aug 2012 Hits:1239 Florida
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Former Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer in 2008(Credit: AP/Reinhold Matay)
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