Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trump Has No Path To Reelection That Doesn't Go Through Florida


Yesterday, at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum talked about how he plans to work with Bring It Home Florida towards blocking Trump's reelection bid by helping register more voters in the nation's biggest swing state. This is what Florida party affiliation registration looks like right now:
Democrats- 4,965,139
Republicans- 4,718,813
Independents- 3,593,623
Minor parties- 119,488
When Mike Bloomberg announced he wasn't running for president after all, he said he would run massive voter registration drives and turnout efforts in the 5 top swing states-- Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and... Florida. The Florida Democratic Party has committed $2 million towards a voter registration drive this cycle and Gillum's own PAC, Forward Florida, has $3.9 million left over from his gubernatorial run. In January he told that media that "whatever resources that I raise and time and energy I spend in this state is going to be around voter registration and deep-level engagement, so that when we have a nominee, we have an apparatus we can turn on."

Now the other side of the coin-- how can Republicans hold down voter registration and suppress the vote? First and foremost, they are working towards undermining Amendment 4, which granted ex-felons the right to vote again.
Florida legislators advanced a bill on Tuesday that is expected to limit the number of former felons who can vote, in part by requiring former felons to pay back all court fees and fines before they can register.

Critics say the measure hits lower-income Floridians hardest and is designed to defy the will of the voters, who passed a constitutional amendment last year restoring voting rights to some felons who have completed their sentences without any mention of fines and fees. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) wrote on Twitter that the measure was "a poll tax by any other name."

“What the barriers proposed in this bill do is nearly guarantee that people will miss election after election …because they cannot afford to pay financial obligations,” said Julie Ebenstein, a voting rights attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s an affront to the Florida voters.”

In November, 65 percent of Floridians voted to approve an amendment to the state's constitution, Amendment 4, that restored voting rights to certain former felons “after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.” Those who were convicted of “murder or sexual offenses” were not eligible for rights restoration.

The constitutional amendment, which took effect January 2019, said voting rights would be restored to eligible Floridians-- an estimated 1.5 million. Many have registered to vote in the months since then. Still, there was confusion about implementation, such as what qualified as a "sexual offense." The Republican-controlled legislature, at the encouragement of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, decided to write legislation on how the state would implement the change.

On Tuesday, a Republican-controlled committee passed a measure that would require felons to pay back all court fees and fines-- even if they are slowly paying those costs back in a court-approved payment plan, for instance-- before they can register to vote.

Ebenstein said the bill "subverts" the will of Florida voters, who she said couldn't have considered the legislature's method of implementing the amendment when voting.

"Keeping voters who can’t afford to pay their fees immediately, keeping them disenfranchised for additional years, decades, or for the rest of their life, is not what was contemplated by voters who passed this amendment," she said.

The Republican chair of Florida's state House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Rep. James "J.W." Grant, denied suggestions from advocates the bill was politically motivated and rejected the idea that it amounted to a poll tax, according to The Associated Press. Grant did not return a request for comment from NBC News.

Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country have come under fire in the months since the midterm elections for what critics have called attempts to alter or nullify election results where either Democrats or causes championed by progressives triumphed. In Michigan and Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers sought to limit the powers of incoming Democratic governors. In Missouri, Republican lawmakers reportedly said they were considering revisions to voter-approved ethics measures.

In Florida, supporters of Amendment 4 feared having Republicans-- some of whom opposed the restoration of felon voting rights-- craft the legislation on how the new law would be implemented and argued that implementation legislation was not needed.

Ebenstein said the financial obligation element of the bill that advanced Tuesday affects two groups: low-income felons who can't afford to pay back fees, and those who committed property crimes and were sentenced to pay large sums of restitution and put on payment plans.

Even if a court waives the repayment of fees for a former felon, the bill would require the victim or organization to whom the fees were owed must "consent" in order for that person to register, adding a particularly unusual barrier to the process, Ebenstein added.

"I’ve never see anything like that in my time practicing voting rights," she said.

The measure also qualifies a slew of felonies with any kind of sexual component as a disqualifying “sexual offense.” That includes crimes like having an adult entertainment store too close to a school as well as certain prostitution crimes.

“What they’ve done is picked the broadest definition possible to exclude the maximum number of people from having their rights restored,” Ebenstein told NBC News.
There is some possibility that litigation will wipe out the legislative restrictions since there's a legitimate argument on the issue of whether the fees and fines constitute a poll tax when they are a prerequisite to voting. If not, there is talk that a group backed by a big Democratic donor-- Soros I'd venture-- will pick up the tab for a lot of people on their fees and fines, and get them registered. The fees and fines tend to be very modest amounts, although it’s not so modest when you multiply them by 1.7 million felons. I recall that after the 2012 election, Alan Grayson-- who had introduced the first and only national legislation on this (the "No One Can Take Away Your Right to Vote Act")-- did a statewide poll of felons who had served their terms and found that, among this group of non-voters, Obama won by a massive 20%. If that held up in elections without Obama, it would be an insurmountable swing towards Democrats for Democratic candidates. If only the authors of the bill had just copied Grayson's proposed federal legislation, the GOP wouldn't have been able to mount this challenge to it.

Since the founding of the country, conservative have battled to deny participation in the voting process to as many people as they could, fighting viciously to keep the franchise away from women, non-property owners, people of color, young people, poor people, etc. That's pretty much the only way conservatives can win elections.

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At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This would explain the heavy Republican attacks against any voting rights changes.

The Republicans missed an opportunity between 2017-19 to eliminate voting rights on a national level. After all, Scalia broadcast the fact that the Constitution doesn't have an expressed voting right within it. With a captive Supremecist Court, they could essentially have declared that there were new voting rights limitations, such as only those entities with Co., Inc., or LLC suffices would have the franchise.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Jimbo said...

Great post. Yes, since the founding of the republic and especially the Constitution (dominated by Virginian plantation and slave owners), the upper classes have always tried to limit the franchise and restrict other attempts to assert basic rights like civil rights, female voting or the women's rights amendment, union organizing rights. I could go on but you already know this.

I am hopeful that my militantly Millennial progressive kids will work to reverse the degradation wreaked by conservatives on this country in addition to me and my contemporaries are trying to do. But it will take many years to halt the damage.

At 6:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Won't happen, Jimbo. We don't have very much time before someone on the Nazi side wins the electoral college and then just declares martial law via an emergency, real or contrived, and congress just folds. All we need is some sort of "terror" incident that trump can blame on a meskin.

besides, as long as the democraps are involved, nothing will ever repair any damage.

nice to see the 'poll tax' get resurrected... after 99.99999% of americans forgot or never learned what that means.

fuck we're stupid!

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMO, trump can't lose FL. They don't even need the poll tax or any kind of suppression to counter the new law.

But even if he did, he could still easily win easily, likely taking WI, CO and VA. Throw in NV and any 3 of those 4 would do it. All are doable but require another shit DNC whore nom'd, like biden.

Besides, remember that trump won the electors by 306 - 232.
Even if ONLY FL flips, he still wins 277 - 261. You know, math-n-shit. Kinda makes the premise of the piece a steaming load.


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