Allow felons to vote after completing their sentences
Rhonda SwanU.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last week said that Congress' re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act is a "perpetuation of racial entitlement."
Published: March 10, 2013
Published: March 10, 2013
Lawmakers, he said, would never vote against the measure because they're fear being politically incorrect.
"Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements," he said, "it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes."
The normal political processes are what made voter suppression possible in the first place, and what allows it to continue.
There has been no better example of that than in Florida where elected officials routinely try to disenfranchise people of color.
There was the voter purge of 2000 that dropped thousands of eligible African American voters from the rolls in an effort supposedly to keep felons from the polls.
Only 537 votes decided the 2000 presidential election that the Supreme Court gave to George Bush. Democrat Al Gore got nearly 90 percent of the black vote that year. Do the math.
That purge went so well that Republicans in Florida tried it again last year with an attempt to drop 2,600 suspected illegal immigrants from voter rolls. Only 207 turned out not to be citizens.
We also got HB1355, the much-maligned 2011 law that reduced the number of early voting days in a failed effort to suppress turnout by African Americans and Hispanics.
The plan backfired and the Republican-controlled legislature paid its penance in November when record turnout gave Barack Obama Florida's 29 electoral college votes. GOP lawmakers are now seeking forgiveness with bills aimed at undoing HB1355.
Gov. Rick Scott, facing a challenge for the governor's mansion next year, will no doubt sign any elections bill that allows him to repent for putting his John Hancock on HB1355.
But what would be more impressive is if Scott also flip-flopped and put his signature on a policy that lets former prisoners vote.
Florida is home to 1.5 million people who have done their time but are still paying for their crime because they have no civil rights. Scott and the Cabinet have made it so hard for felons to get their rights restored, many will never be able to vote.
For all the attention to the long lines, long ballots and long wait to declare winners that marked Florida's 2012 election, too little has been paid to the long fight of those who are being denied their right to participate in our democracy.
And make no mistake, abridging that right is by design.
African Americans and Hispanics, who tend to vote Democratic, are arrested, tried and convicted in disproportionate numbers so they are disproportionately represented among the felon population.
Rhonda Swan is an editorial writer for The Palm Beach Post and author of Dancing to the Rhythm of My Soul: A Sister's Guide for Transforming Madness into Gladness. She can be reached at email@example.com