Florida Gov. Crist Makes History
Proposes to end permanent disenfranchisement of
Florida’s 600,000 ex- felons who’ve paid their debt
Newly elected Florida Gov. Charlie Crist says
“Good bye to all that” and distances from
disgraced Bush elections policies.
TALLAHASSEE, FL (AP) -- Governor Charlie Crist says he will continue working to change the rules so that felons will have their voting rights automatically restored once they have paid their debt to society.
This is one of the most revolutionary and far reaching proposals made by a Southern governor in years. The removal of voting rights for ex-felons, those who have served their time and returned to society, is a direct descendent of the 1891 Mississippi Constitution. This document proudly listed a variety of ways Post Reconstruction whites would remove all political power form blacks. During Reconstruction black voting rates in the South were very high with blacks and whites serving together in elected governments. When the Republicans traded the presidency for an end to Federal presence in the former Confederate states, Reconstruction ended and so did the rights of blacks to vote.
Once charged with a felony, almost any felony, you lose your right to vote, permanently. Some 600,000 Floridians, mostly minority, mostly male, have lost their right to vote even though they have served their sentences. Florida is far from unique.
In Virginia, for example, 200,000 minority males, mostly black Americans, have no right to vote due to felon disenfranchisement. Just before leaving office, former Virginia Governor Mark Warner was urged to restore ex felon voting rights by proclamation. He refused. His successor, Tom Kaine, Dem. touts the efficiency of the restoration of voting rights. However, only a negligible number of ex felons have been returned to the rolls.
Crist’s proposal represents a serious attempt to right this long time wrong and end the ties between the New South and the racist legacy that survives even today in attacks on the voting rights of black American.
Citizens Strike Back in the “Show Me” State