Amendment 4: …and a little more

amendment 4

Some people who oppose this amendment:

Some people who support this amendment:

Some organizations who support this amendment:

  • Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • League of Women Voters of Florida
  • Progress Florida
  • Florida Policy Institute
  • Florida National Organization for Women
  • Florida TaxWatch
  • Libertarian Party of Florida
  • Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops

Seriously…ballotpedia is amazing. You want to know what else is amazing? The data that supports this amendment. I am obviously biased in my analysis of this – I am only human – so I feel like I should share a bit about why I feel strongly about this issue. It is so easy to agree with the sentiment that if you want to weigh in on laws you shouldn’t break them…but that doesn’t capture humanity. Everyone breaks the law at some point or another. Sometimes for purely selfish reasons. Others not so much. The law doesn’t leave much room for analyzing the grey area. But the brain certainly does. Let’s take advantage of that.

First of all- again, this law has ties to Civil War era policies that worked to suppress the vote of black men. Obviously, that was not the most inclusive of times. Since then, this issue has been challenged in court, but Florida has only strengthened these policies while the rest of the country has moved in the opposite direction. Criminal_Disenfranchisement_Map (1)

Florida + 2 other states are alone in their decision to completely disenfranchise those who commit felons. But…”it’s not forever”, you might say. “They have the chance to appeal to a board after waiting 5 years since the law has forgiven them before they can be included in making those laws”, you might continue to say.

And you wouldn’t be wrong. But leaving individual clemency up to a small group of people is time consuming, intensely administrative, and likely dangerous depending on the small group of people and their potential bias. The number of people who are granted clemency are totally dependent on who the Governor is, and who the Clemency Board is made up of.

clemency1

That’s a lot of people. For me, it is hard to accept that the number of people who have their rights restored should vary that much from year to year – what are these decisions being based on?

Right now, Florida laws are at their most restrictive since 1976. 

And the process that former felons have to go through the get their voting rights restored is difficult to navigate…and just simply difficult. Those who re-enter society face a myriad of barriers- from lack of housing, job opportunities, transportation, social capital, support, and a solid next step, it’s just hard. Considering those barriers, how likely is it that this person can invest in the time and spend the money to make this happen? Do they have a car? Money for gas or a hotel? Access to a printer?

But again, it’s easy to say that this isn’t your problem. But it is. Not only is it in the best interest of everyone to eliminate potentially racist policies that have undoubtedly racist outcomes, but it does benefit society to have a simpler process with more people civically engaged. And it also saves a lot of money too…a little something for everyone.

A report by the Washington Economics Group of Coral Gables showed:

  • Felons who have voting rights restored “have a greater ability to become full members of Florida’s society and economy”
  • And that restoring rights “leads to a reduced rate” of people re-entering the prison system
    • Out of the 992 people whose voting rights were restored under Gov. Scott, only 1 of them committed a new felony
    • It costs tax payers about $20,000 per year per person incarcerated…so that is a lot of money saved. They site it as the biggest cost savings.
  • And that Florida would gain an estimated $385 million a year in economic impact
  • And then also gain the opportunity to create about 3,800 more jobs

There are many benefits, and the more people who can access the voting poll, the more likely our representation will represent the majority. Just saying.

 

 

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