Law­mak­ers should let Amend­ment 4 work

Tampa Bay Times - - Opinion - DANIEL RUTH [email protected]­pabay.com

Per­haps noth­ing vexes the grift­ing class in Tallahassee more than those net­tle­some cit­i­zens who have the au­dac­ity to take democ­racy into their own hands. Can’t they just shut up and go about their pre­or­dained mun­dane busi­ness of be­ing serfs and leave the se­ri­ous work of run­ning the state in the hands of their elected lob­by­ist corps lap dogs?

This is Tallahassee after all, which is an old Semi­nole word for Three Card Monte.

So you can only imag­ine the con­ster­na­tion that swept through the Flor­ida Leg­is­la­ture and the Gover­nor’s Man­sion when vot­ers in Novem­ber rose up and ex­pressed their will. And At­las sighed.

More than five mil­lion Florid­i­ans voted to ap­prove Amend­ment 4, which au­to­mat­i­cally re­stores the vot­ing rights of more than 1 mil­lion felons who have com­pleted their sen­tences. The mea­sure passed with 64 per­cent of the vote, which would cer­tainly seem to rise to the level of a pretty clear-cut man­date.

The suc­cess of Amend­ment 4 im­me­di­ately set off a parox­ysm of chin-rub­bing, cluck­ing, cat­er­waul­ing and no small amount of har­rumph­ing on the part of the Tallahassee power elites, for whom voter sup­pres­sion is a blood sport.

Why, if you start al­low­ing felons to vote, well by God they might ac­tu­ally vote. And there is ev­ery po­ten­tial like­li­hood they may not vote for the very peo­ple who have been treat­ing them like po­lit­i­cal cooties. No good would come from this. You start al­low­ing felons to have a seat at the elec­toral ta­ble, and the next thing you know ISIS might well be march­ing through the streets of Two Egg.

Some­thing had to be done to sub­vert the will of the peo­ple. This rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment balder­dash is so highly over­rated.

Ob­vi­ously, this called for some high-toned hum­manahum­mana-hum­mana, with just a splash of pos­ing for holy pic­tures for good mea­sure.

Then Gov.-elect Ron DeSan­tis sug­gested while restor­ing the vot­ing rights of felons might be a lovely thing, it could re­quire some “im­ple­ment­ing lan­guage,” which is Tallahassee-speak for: “We’re go­ing to bury this thing deeper than Jimmy Hoffa.”

Sen. Den­nis Bax­ley, R-Ocala, who chairs the Ethics and Elec­tions Com­mit­tee, (which is a bit like ap­point­ing Keith Richards to run the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion) also sug­gested the felon vot­ing rights is­sue “may or may not” re­quire the Flor­ida Leg­is­la­ture to pon­der the prospect of im­ple­ment­ing leg­is­la­tion.

Fur­ther study might be needed, which was an­other way of say­ing if Tallahassee gets its way, felons would be per­mit­ted to vote about the same time Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­leases his tax re­turns.

Tallahassee is in­fa­mous for un­der­min­ing cit­i­zen ini­tia­tives. What do those great un­washed pe­ons know about gov­ern­ment? After all, they elected the mem­bers of the Flor­ida Leg­is­la­ture, didn’t they?

But this is far more se­ri­ous. For al­low­ing felons to cast a bal­lot threat­ens the po­lit­i­cal or­der of the state. Even if only half of those 1.2 mil­lion prospec­tive vot­ers ac­tu­ally reg­is­ters, you are look­ing at hun­dreds of thou­sands of new bal­lots be­ing cast. In the im­mor­tal words of that for­mer Tallahassee philoso­pher Jeb Bush, “Rut-roh!”

De­spite the whin­ing from DeSan­tis and Bax­ley as to how Amend­ment 4 might need the care­ful mas­sag­ing of the Flor­ida Leg­is­la­ture, the county su­per­vi­sors of elec­tions al­ready have be­gun to ac­cept voter reg­is­tra­tions from felons, rea­son­ably con­clud­ing Amend­ment 4 is clearly worded and self-im­ple­ment­ing with­out any help from Tallahassee.

Cit­i­zen-mo­ti­vated mea­sures like Amend­ment 4 only come about be­cause the Flor­ida Leg­is­la­ture or the gover­nor are too feck­less, too gut­less, too fear­ful to act on their own to ad­dress po­ten­tially po­lit­i­cally con­tro­ver­sial is­sues.

Un­der for­mer (and thenRepub­li­can) Gov. Char­lie Crist, vot­ing rights were eas­ily re­stored for many felons. Crist was will­ing to take the heat for sim­ply do­ing the right thing. For­mer Gov. Rick Scott could have left well enough alone. In­stead he cru­elly rolled back the re­forms and re­duced the num­ber of restora­tions to a trickle. On Scott’s watch, Sir Thomas More would have had a hard time be­ing al­lowed to vote, if he hadn’t al­ready been be­headed.

Dur­ing the Scott years, Tallahassee Repub­li­cans en­gaged in all man­ner of voter sup­pres­sion schemes to make it more dif­fi­cult to cast a bal­lot. But this time around the body politic proved you can’t sup­press democ­racy for­ever when 5 mil­lion peo­ple rise up to have their say.

Memo to Tallahassee: Get over it.

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