Rick Scott Pleads Ignorance About Felon Voting Rights

Here's a fun way to defend a racist restriction on voting rights: First, claim the new rule is colorblind. Then, when black legislators get angry, plead ignorance. Say you had no idea the rule was draconian compared to policies in most of the country.

This is Gov. Rick Scott's strategy when it comes to defending the archaic voting ban his Cabinet passed in March. The rule -- which requires nonviolent felons to wait five years after completing their sentences before applying to have their voting rights restored -- returned Florida to its ugly past. 

After the Civil War, the first law disenfranchising felons was zealously employed to keep newly freed slaves from voting.

Fast-forward to the 2000 election debacle, when thousands of people were misidentified as felons and purged from the voter rolls. And guess what? A disproportionate proportion of the people blocked from voting were black.

Thankfully, former Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist heard the resulting public outcry and changed the law, getting rid of the waiting period and allowing nonviolent felons to have their voting rights automatically restored when they finished serving their time.

Let's pretend Rick Scott didn't know any of this. Let's say he hasn't read a newspaper since 1998. It would still be tough to fathom that he remained ignorant after he and his Cabinet passed the felon ban in March.The Palm Beach Post ran a story at the time saying only two other states -- Virginia and Kentucky -- had such restrictive, Jim Crow-style voting laws.

Still, Scott's pleading ignorance. He told black lawmakers yesterday that he would take another look at the ban, if they provide him with more information about its impact and the policies in other states. "If there's a better way of doing it, I'll look at it," he said, according to the Post.

That's right, Governor. Have other people do your research for you. Make sure you remain as ignorant as possible when making policy decisions. Being dumb is better than being racist, wouldn't you say?

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab