Can Felons Be Trusted to Vote?

by TChris

TalkLeft has frequently taken note of Florida's efforts to assure that people who once committed a felony are never allowed to vote, no matter that they've paid their debt to society, changed their attitudes, and lived productive and law-abiding lives for many years. Apologists for Florida -- one of only seven states to disenfranchise felons even after they've completed their punishments -- argue that felons can apply to reinstate their right to vote. Sure they can, but unless they have connections, it's obvious that most of the applications won't go anywhere.

The Office of Executive Clemency has a backlog of 44,000 requests for reinstatement.

Today at its quarterly meeting in Tallahassee, the governor's Executive Clemency Board will consider just 56 applicants from the waiting list.

"It's kind of embarrassing" for the state, contends state Sen. Mandy Dawson, D-Fort Lauderdale, who's been trying unsuccessfully for many years to change the law. Like other advocates, the Daytona Beach native points to the disproportionate number of minorities affected by the original law that went into effect in 1868, shortly after blacks got the right to vote.

Roger Clegg (a former high-level official in the Justice Department) makes the absurd argument that ex-felons shouldn't be allowed to vote because they might vote for legislators who would be "soft on crime." By that reasoning, the government should disenfranchise all voters who might not cast their ballots for politicians favored by Clegg. Clegg's point isn't that reformed felons are unworthy of voting, but that they might not vote for Republicans. And that's exactly the reasoning that secretly underlies Florida's unwillingness to restore the voting rights of the 600,000 disenfranchised Floridians who once commited a felony.

Ex-felons work, pay taxes, and send their kids to school just like everyone else. They should have the same right to representation as everyone else, even if people like Roger Clegg fear that they might vote the "tough on crime" folks out of office.

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