Q&A – Dishonesty With The Restoration Of Florida’s Felon Voting Rights

Today’s entry covers the legal challenge to Florida’s law mandating financial restitution as condition voting rights are being restored.

Was this an engineered scam? Was this always the plan to get it passed saying they will pay full restitution and then change the law in the court later? This also highlights another problem legislating from the bench.

Bottom Line: I can’t speak directly to whether this was the plan all along by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition that backed the felon voting rights restoration amendment, but I can say they’re disingenuous. From the onset of the process, which began after the Coalition obtained the required number of signatures for consideration by the Florida Supreme Court, financial restitution as part of the restoration wasn’t in question. Why? Because of the argument advanced before the Florida Supreme Court. 

Attorney John Mills, representing the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition had this exchange when having the ballot language considered to appear on Florida’s ballot: 

Florida Supreme Court question: So, the restoration of voting rights would also include the full payment of any fines?

John Mill's response on behalf of the Coalition: Yes, sir.

With that consideration in mind, the Florida Supreme Court approved this ballot language, "No. 4 Constitutional Amendment Article VI, Section 4. Voting Restoration Amendment This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis".

Florida’s voters passed that amendment with more than 64% of the vote. Despite answering that financial restitution was the intent of the proposal, it was immediately clear that the Coalition was disingenuous. Former felons were being registered to vote without consideration of financial obligations. As a result, Florida’s legislators passed legislation mandating financial restitution as part of the restoration process. That’s where this debate stands as the Coalition challenges the state’s new law before the courts where they previously argued the opposite.

I find it to be offensive in addition to disingenuous. As I’ve asked previously, where are the advocates of victims' rights in Florida? It’s funny how they disappear when they perceive registering as many former felons as possible may be politically advantageous to their ideological objectives. But that’s not the crux of this story. We now know, based on a preliminary study by the University of Florida, how many former felons have actually paid back their debt to society as determined by the courts. 18%.The argument is that it’s a “poll tax” which takes us back to where I started. Is intellectual honesty too much to ask?

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Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

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Photo by: RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images



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