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
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.
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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.
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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.
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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:631 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.
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Steven Rosenfeld | AlterNet 09 Oct 2012 Hits:936 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:500 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:688 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.
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By Matea Gold, Joseph Tanfani and Melanie Mason | LosAngeles Times Politics 29 Sep 2012 Hits:775 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:664 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:3628 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,...
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Arun Gupta | AlterNet 30 Aug 2012 Hits:819 Florida
Activist group Code Pink, protesting this week at the Republican National Convention, marched through the streets of Tampa on Monday dressed as a group of giant vaginas to speak out against the GOP's "war on women".
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Common Dreams Staff 29 Aug 2012 Hits:749 Florida
Thousands of Republicans from around the country will descend upon Tampa, Florida next week for the Republican National Convention, and if recent history is any guide, so too will hundreds of protesters.
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Adam Peck | ThinkProgress 24 Aug 2012 Hits:899 Florida
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday flatly rejected any talk of expanding the number of early-voting days in the state prior to this year's presidential election despite a federal court ruling that a new state law could hurt minority participation.
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Gary Fineout | The Miami Herald 21 Aug 2012 Hits:530 Florida
Florida's disgraced former GOP chairman says the party had meetings about "keeping blacks from voting"
Former Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer in 2008(Credit: AP/Reinhold Matay)
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Alex Seitz-Wald | Salon 31 Jul 2012 Hits:1021 Florida
After evaluating answers to our initial, detailed questionnaire, our Steering Committee is pleased to recommend the following candidates for local, state, and national office. These candidates have demonstrated an understanding of the social, economic, and international issues confronting our nation.
Their responses are in accord with the liberal, progressive values of PDAPBC. We believe they are candidates in the best tradition of the Democratic Party. *Starred candidates are involved in Democratic primaries.
Congressional District 18: Patrick Murphy* Congressional District 20: Alcee L. Hastings State Senate District 27: Jeff Clemens* State Representative District...
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Florida ought to know better. And must do better, particularly on the issue of voting and discrimination.
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