Despite being full of Democrats, Florida can’t seem to stop electing Republicans. We’ve had one-party rule for 20 years, and as a result, very little gets done. Florida citizens compensate for this by bypassing the legislature and directly amending our Constitution. Transportation, education, our environment—you name it, Floridians had to create an amendment for it. It’s a long and difficult process, but it’s pretty much the only way our state has had a modicum of functionality. Ten years ago, the legislature even tried to stifle this, by requiring a super-majority to pass any kind of citizen-led amendment, yet that didn’t stop them. So the GOP tried a new tactic: ignore/thwart them.
Florida passed the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts amendment. Instead of implementing it, Florida Republicans spent $10 million of our money to fight it, until our supreme court had to intervene. We passed the school class-size amendment, yet with so many legislative exemptions, my kid’s Spanish class still resembled a stadium. We passed Amendment 1 by 75%—to set aside funds to buy land and preserve it. The legislature responded by using most of the funds for ”salaries and operations.” We passed a desperately needed medical marijuana amendment by 70% in 2016, and it STILL hasn’t been implemented. Why? The GOP has tied it up in the courts ever since.
Now, with two-thirds of Florida voting to overturn a Jim Crow era-law that has only helped the GOP, what do you guess is happening?
Our new governor-elect, Ron DeSantis, in between his constant racism, campaigned hard against Amendment 4. So did Rick Scott. Ironically, Rick Scott helped it pass by his blatant abuse of it: He implemented a humiliating kangaroo court, where he forced African-Americans to beg him personally for their rights back, just to tell them “no—I’m just not feeling it.”
The amendment overturned the arbitrary requirement for felons to wait five years after they completed their sentences before they were eligible to just APPLY for restoration of their civil rights, including the right to vote.
GOP legislators are terrified of adding 1.5 million voters to the rolls—many of whom were unnecessarily humiliated—and are now saying they have so many ”questions” about the law that they will need several months to study it and figure out how to ”implement” it.
To which, on behalf of the voters of Florida, I say this: GO F&*% YOURSELVES.
The law could NOT be more clear in its language, and was written to be “self-enacting.” (Find the full text here.) It was written that way on purpose, specifically to ensure the legislature would not have an excuse to meddle.
Unless you committed murder or a sex crime, your voting rights are restored automatically once you complete your sentence and your probation. Period. Done. End.
What takes months to understand? They can’t even come up with any legitimate questions they supposedly have. Even so, the League of Women Voters put out a helpful job aid:
There seems to be some confusion from lawmakers as to the complex nature of #Amendment4 "implementation"
— LWV of Florida (@LWVFlorida) December 13, 2018
Every other state has managed to figure out how to restore rights. In fact, this ancient, racist law required extensive effort across multiple agencies just to maintain it. Getting rid of it is pretty self-explanatory. As for when to implement, the executive director of the Florida ACLU put it bluntly: Amendment 4 goes into effect January 8th, as intended.
Yet that’s not what the GOP wants.
DeSantis told The Palm Beach Post in an interview that the initiative shouldn’t be rolled out until “implementing language” is approved by the legislature and signed by him.
NO. Bad governor.
Just like last minute power grabs in Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin, the GOP is waging an all-out assault on our state Constitution. Make no mistake, Governor-elect DeSantis and the GOP legislature will drag this “clarification” out for months, or even years, and then find a way to use taxpayer money to tie it up in the courts, as they have with other amendments they hate—and boy do they hate this one.
Sadly, DeSantis will also be replacing three of Florida’s liberal supreme court justices with sycophants, (which is why this election was so damn important), and I have no doubt they will help DeSantis in any way they can. (By the way, the only black justice is retiring, and naturally, none of DeSantis’ nominees are black.) The Florida Dept. of State has not given any guidance to the election supervisors, but thankfully, many don’t plan on waiting.
If you are someone who is eligible to have their rights restored, you shouldn’t either. As the Orlando Sentinel said, if you are a former felon, ignore Ron DeSantis and the GOP.
Apply to vote on January 8th. You have a legal right to have your civil rights restored. You also have the support of our people, and our Constitution. You are no longer a criminal.
I just wish I could say that about our politicians who refuse to follow the rule of law.