Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, already notorious for being the CEO of a company that engaged in a billion-dollar scam of Medicare, has been earnestly trying to earn a reputation as voting-disenfranchiser-in-chief of the United States. I have previously written of Scott’s initial attempt to strike 182,000 mostly Democratic Party voters off the rolls by orchestrating the sending of letters, which, if not responded to in a designated period of time, would disenfranchise the voter in question. After numerous erors became evident in the initial mailing, Scott shortened the list to a few thousand.
Scott also was instrumental in drastically shortening the time period in which those who register voters could get their lists in and in imposing heavy fines for each wrongly registered voter. Not satiskfied with the scope and scale of these voter suppression efforts, Scott saw to it that early voting days were shortened and he would not hear of extending voter hours when people thronged early polling places. Stretching the bounds of nefarious to the breaking point, a Scott-compliant, GOP-controlled state legislature put 11 legalistically-worded constitutional amendments on the ballot to slow up voters as much as possible.
What most directly connects Governor Voter Disenfranchisement to the segregationist past of the South, if such needs to be established, is his disenfranshisement of ex-felons.
Before 2007, Florida was one of three states that permanently disenfranchised all ex-felons. Former Governor Charlie Crist amended the law so that nonviolent ex-felons could get their voting rights restored and more than 150,000 Floridians did so. (1) Now, under Governor Voter Disenfranchisement, those with non-serious felony convictions have to wait five years after release from prison (seven years for serious felonies), and they must have been crime-free druing that period. The ex-felons must have copies of all original court records to even apply for a hearing. (2)
According to the Florida ACLU, only 78 ex-felons had their voting rights restored by the end of 2011 under the new rules. (3)
The Sentencing Project reported this past July that Florida has the distinction of being the disenfranchisement capital of the nation, with more than a million of its citizens struck from the rolls.
Florida’s efforts at disenfranchising ex-felons have long historical roots. The first laws took effect in 1868 on a measure by the state legislature to severely limit the political power of African-Americans recently emancipated from slavery. (4)
Governor Voter Disenfranchisement has so confused his county election commissioners with his rapid-fire rule shifts, that many Floridians received official letters saying they were elibible to vote, followed by letters saying they were not.
(1) Brennan Center for Justice.
(2) Brentin Mock, “Florida’s Felonious Voting Trap,” The Nation, October 15, 2012.