The Florida GOP is undermining voters’ recent decision to restore voting rights for felons. Amendment 4, which reinstated voting rights to 1.4 million former felons who completed their sentence, passed in the state’s midterms with 65% majority and is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 8, but the Republicans are standing in its way by playing dumb. According to Mother Jones, the state’s elections chief is asking the overwhelmingly red state legislature to take another look at the initiative and reinterpret it.
The fact that the amendment is even being reconsidered is a farce. It was presented to voters one way, the majority voters decided they liked it as it was, so it should go into law in that way. Republicans are patronizing and deceiving their constituents right in front of their eyes and pretending that it’s all part of the process.
Secretary of State, Republican Ken Detzner, who’s pushing for legislature feedback on the amendment, told press “We need to get some direction from them [the legislature]as far as implementation and definitions—all the kind of things that the supervisors were asking. It would be inappropriate for us to charge off without direction from them.”
Yet, that’s exactly what he’s asking county boards of elections to do. He’s asked those supervisors of elections to make their own decisions about how to begin reinstating voting rights for affected felons and they’re understandably frustrated. Since Detzner provided no directions or timeline, each county is figuring out what to do on its own, and that could lead to yet more voter rights issues. While one county could decide to restore voters’ rights on the predetermined date other counties may not follow suit, and that lack of consistency could lead to lawsuits against the state.
Voters will be footing those litigation bills.
Republicans want to pretend that this process is an extremely nuanced, dangerous slope to slide down. They beg questions with answers that are not only evident, but should have been asked long before this amendment hit the ballot. State Senator Dennis Baxley told the Tampa Times “How do you evaluate eligibility? I still have some questions…What were the terms of their sentence? Do they have to meet probation? Did they complete their debt to society or not?”
Every single one of Baxley’s questions can be answered in one sentence. “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation,” excluding those convicted of murder or sexual assault charges, according to the amendment’s summary, available on the Florida Division of Elections website. That verbiage was also approved by the state supreme court in April of last year.