Republicans Are Already Trying to Stop Felons From Voting

The best news for Democrats from the recent midterm elections was that Florida's racist and ridiculously difficult road to voting rights restoration for felons was overturned  — you know, the one that stopped one in five black voters from casting ballots.

Now it looks as if Republicans don't want the 65 percent of the population that approved the measure to get their way.

This is despicable.

It was revealed this week at a meeting of Florida elections supervisors in Sarasota that just weeks before the rights restoration measure is to take effect on January 8, the Republican-run Division of Elections has suspended review of felons' records. This is important because the new process only allows certain nonviolent felons this opportunity.

The suspension was announced by Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews. It followed a statement to reporters by Republican Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner that the ballot measure is unclear. "We need to get some direction from [the Legislature] as far as implementation and definitions — all the kind of things that the supervisors were asking,” he said. “It would be inappropriate for us to charge off without direction from them.”

The 2019 legislative session is not due to start until March 5. Both the House and Senate are dominated by Republicans. So is the governor's mansion.

Moreover, the "supervisors" Detzner was probably referring to were really one guy, Mike Bennett, the supervisor of elections in heavily Republican Manatee County, which includes Bradenton. According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Bennett requested a written order with direction on implementing the voters' will.

It is not at all stupid to conclude this seems like an organized effort to depress the black and largely Democratic tide ahead of 2020. It fits a long-term Republican strategy of foot-dragging and political skulduggery that traces back to efforts to prohibit the "souls to the polls" voting day — on a Sunday before Election Day — a few years ago. That effort failed. And this effort will fail too, if Democrats take action now.

The hero in all this might be Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin. She told the Herald Tribune that one holdup might be how to define "completion of sentence" and whether all fees need to be paid before voting rights are restored. She even mentioned "litigation."
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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse