Floridians with felony convictions are now starting to register to vote after the state restored voting rights to 1.5 million felons.  Florida, under Republican control, had one of the strictest voter laws in the country. 10% of voting-age adults and almost 25% of African American adults were barred from voting because of a previous conviction.  (The measure doesn’t apply to anyone convicted of a felony sexual offence or murder.) Sentences must be completed.  But once that’s done, beginning this month, felons can register to vote.

The bulk of these felonies are for drug charges and petty crimes. (You know…heinous crimes like processing a bag of pot, not “harmless,” allowable, white-collar crimes like swindling millions out of their life savings or colluding with a foreign power. Just sayin.) There are way too many people behind bars, many of them because they just can’t afford bail or representation, some because of biased judges, laws, and juries. It’s an incredible waste of money and human resources, especially when it comes to victim-less crimes.

Once the prisoner has put in their time, the best thing for them and for our collective well being is to integrate these returning citizens back into society. One way to do that is to engage them in the democratic process, which means voting.  Since African Americans are dis-proportionally incarcerated, Republicans are scared that this will hurt them in the next election as blacks tend to vote Democratic. The bipartisan Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has encouraged potential voters to call the toll-free number 877-MY-VOTE-0 with any questions.  

Voter suppression is an incredibly powerful force and harmful to the democratic process. We need to fight it for all it’s worth. So it’s nice to have a little win once in a while.  I keep looking for them these days when things often seem so dire. Good for you, Floridians! You proved what people showing up at the polls can do.  @blueravenartist