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POINT: Felons' Voting Rights Bill Makes Consummate Sense

June 8, 2019 - 7:45am

After Florida voters last year approved a constitutional amendment restoring formerly incarcerated felons' voting rights, Republicans in both chambers passed a provision requiring they pay any outstanding court fees and fines before they can vote. The fate of the bill is in the hands of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The new law stipulates that for voting rights to be fully reinstated, felons need also to make any financial restitution regarding their past crime(s). And herein lies the genesis of the controversy. Paying costs relates to court costs, legal fines incurred, and/or any crime-related restitution. 

The rights of citizens who complete their sentences is an issue that has no definitive interpretation from a federal level. The condition a former prisoner faces following the completion of his sentence is a states-rights issue and Florida has, and is, dealing with it independently. It is commonplace but not unanimous for states to rescind the right to vote for a felony conviction, though Florida is among the few states making it a lifelong ban. 

Though voters passed the law, there are still a number of grey areas.

There is obviously opposition and grousing, but this is not a cut-and-dry scenario. The main charge is that this bill is a gambit by Republicans in the capital to stifle the newly reinstituted voting rights of 1.4 million ex-felons. But for this accusation to hold up, one must regard the new law to be a uniquely Democratic Party proposition. This is not an outlandish thought, as Democrats have been promoting this legislation for years, and the party salivates at the numbers of prospective backers.

Another accusation is that released felons are people who “have paid their debt to society.” But those making this claim conveniently avoid the reality that this law is dealing with actual financial debts. Provisions have been put in place that give judges the option of retaining the ability either to waive those payments or have them satisfied via community service.

One of the arguments made is that the loss of voting rights for a felon is somehow a novel concept. Though assured through the Constitution, voting rights are monitored on the state level, as are a number of other enumerated rights. Many of those are also affected when an individual is convicted of a felonious crime. In most cases an individual must surrender his or her passport once convicted, and frequently has his or her right to a firearm taken away.

Therein lies a primary difference with those engaged in the debate. It is fair to suggest that those arguing the most ardently to reinstate voting rights for felons would not be so impassioned to also reinstate that same individual’s Second Amendment rights. If that is, in fact, the scenario, then it seems proper to look at what is in the interest of the individual making the case.

As it stands there is no real problem with this bill. If there is restitution for a felon’s rights, then, does it not stand to reason that the voting privilege is reliant upon satisfaction of financial responsibilities? The vacancy in the argument can be seen in the accusation. If the requirement to clear all debts is said to be a Republican ploy to block votes, it stands to reason that the original proposal was a Democratic move to generate votes. Either both are improper tactics, or neither are.

Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.

Comments

The DNC will stoop to new lows to try to get voters.

The picture you use is not flattering, Brad. You look like a fat-cat, special interest lobbyist complaining about underprivileged people voting.

Republicans are suppressing the vote. They know that the majority of citizens are democrats and they don't want that majority to get any bigger. Look at the Voter Registration By Party Affiliation at the Florida Division of Elections: 4,962,086 Florida Democratic Party 4,719,103 Republican Party of Florida 242,983 Difference Democrats have almost one quarter million majority over the republicans. Voting is a right, not a privilege for EVERY citizen, not the select few. Republican fascists think they are lords and everybody else are commoners.

Republicans again proving they hate the Constitution.

Let's be honest here. We all know that the Democrats look at this as a way to increase the number of Democrat votes in the election since 98% of criminals have been shown to be left-wingers.

Like all good Republicans everywhere, voter suppression is the name of the game in Florida!

Your argument and stats are false. We are one of only a few states that refused to restore felon voting rights once they complete their sentence. Your ridiculous claim is what it has always been for political party hacks all along, that this is merely about votes. In the grand scheme of things, this boils down to simply just being the right thing to do. Perhaps one day through knowledge and wisdom, this will hopefully become apparent to you...but likely not.

During the 2019 session, droves of past felons and/or family members flocked to committee meetings and gave testimony. I believe it will be imperative to get past victims of crime to Tallahassee for the 2020 session when some Legislators once again try to reduce sentencing from mandatory 85% to a mere 65%. This is a slap in the face of every victim. With other provisions of early release a conviction can be reduce by more than half. These sentences were probably reduced with a plea deal in the first place. The voice of the victim has yet to be heard.

It's those court costs that get you in the end. I quote from an article on the same topic written by Nancy Smith:People who entered prison poor sink deeper once inside. They come out of prison buried in a crushing debt...I ask you honestly, would you tolerate court-cost-and-fee restrictions like these if they were imposed on your free speech, free assembly, freedom of religion or freedom to petition government for redress of grievances? How about your freedom from "unreasonable" searches, or the right to counsel? Of course you wouldn't. You would be the first to scream, "This is America! This shouldn't be happening!"

Let's just give them free college tuition, like we're giving to the illegals surging into our country, they forfeited everything else when they did the crime

that is a lie perpetrated by your radical base. Illegal aliens are NOT eligible for any federal benefits, except WIC, and only in some instances.

except except except except except except

Great idea! Let’s MAKE ex-cons get an education or go to trade school. MAKE them get a good, well-paying job and pay taxes. MAKE them reintegrate into society and vote. Then their taxes will help pay for their incarceration, there would be less recidivism. It’s double-reverse psychology!

When you can widen your perception and world view, consider that all of us are dancing on a head of a pin, in the short time in this world I am convinced there this an ill wind that blows through our society, and Justice will chase it away.

THERE'S JUST *NO APPEASING* THE "ENTITLEMENT MINDSET"; THEIR "APPETITES" WILL ALWAYS EXCEED YOUR BENEVOLENCE,... *NO MATTER WHAT* YOU DO FOR THEM !

When is the last time you brought a food basket to some family? When you have the chance take it, for there is no going back, only your memory of regret will Mark you Forever.

The ballot is very clear “complete sentence” means pay any pending debt in the sentence. Yes, pay any debt and then register to Vote.

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