by Michael Dobson


Florida Governor Rick Scott and our cabinet stubbornly standing in the way of the right to vote for tax paying citizens who are disproportionately minorities here in the 21st century, makes for an eerily familiar feeling. It  feels a lot like that fateful day in Alabama, some five decades  ago when Alabama Governor  George Wallace stood at the entrance of the University of Alabama to deny African America students access to that historic university.... all  in the name of  keeping segregation alive and well.  Mr Wallace later denounced his stance. But, will Gov Scott? Will he do so  when there is no longer a need for political advantage born out of such policies.. like Wallace? Only time will tell.

Most states have come to realize that permanently disenfranchising tax paying Americans who have made a mistake, paid their debts to society and wanting to be a contributing member again, is contrary to the promise of America.  They've learned that most citizens agree that it is wrong.

In the most recent poll by North Star Opinion Research and EMC Research Voters overwhelmingly support felon voting rights amendment ..... considered a bipartisan poll, it says  that nearly 3 quarters of voters believe Gov Scott and the Cabinet is wrong.   While their talking point is usually a statement suggesting that ..."it"s for the victims", no victim has spoken up and suggested that once someone  has done their time for  a non violent offense, that he/she should not be able to vote. Is it the assumption that those who decide to register to vote would then vote for his opponent, or would be a Democrat.... or African American voting Democrat. Scholars tells us  its a naked disenfranchisement scheme for political advantage. They tell us that was the original intent of this disenfranchisement scheme in the first place, as pointed out by the Kentucky Advisory Committee to the United States Commission On Civil Rights, when  its findings gives us a bit of history by telling us " In the ensuring decades after the civil war, ex-felon statutes were adopted in a number of states for the expressed  purpose of limiting the right to vote  of African Americans". So, to the "it's for the victims" crowd, history tells us something else.

Then there is this assumption (as inferred above) that giving the right to vote will make Democratic voting rolls spike, well I beg to differ. The proof is in scanning the Florida Division of Elections Website. Doing so, you will  notice a Republican Candidate by the name of Fredrick Dee Buntin is running for governor. You may also notice that his address is Dade Correctional Institution ( aka DOC), where he is housed as an inmate in the Florida Department of Corrections(state prison), and is doing a life sentence there. Yes, you read right...he is an inmate in the Florida State Prison system and is registered on the State of Florida's Division of Elections website... running for governor as a Republican.  Is  Governor  suppressing the vote for upcoming elections because "he can do whatever he wants" ?  Does the governor's  office not read the same history books we all do and know that without a shadow of doubt this practice owe its roots to base racism, and a disenfranchisement that is aimed at denying African Americans the right to vote, with the southern governors who came up with this scheme explicitly saying that was the aim for this policy knowing that African Americans would be prosecuted (for the same crimes) at a  higher rate than others, and would be disproportionately sentenced to jail or prison. Much of this is covered in Janell Ross's"The race-infused history of why felons aren’t allowed to vote in a dozen states". Since the latter article, a few more states has eliminated the regressive barriers which prevented the  voting of non violent citizens who've been convicted of a felony in the past, and paid their debts.

Is it pandering to a  white vote that  Trump revealed, as interestingly discussed in Charles Blows The Lowest White Man, so as to blazingly  perpetuate Jim crow in the 21st century and still get elected to the United State Senate in one of the most racially diverse states in the country? George Wallace saw the damage done, and the winds of change sweep the nation.  He was an old and crippled man when he did so. What is it that an older man sees when there are no more mountains to climb? Did he remember his beginnings and the humanity learned... but it took awhile?

I often think of Governor Scott's story about his youth. You know, the one when he says during a difficult time his family lived in public housing. Given that, why is it that one of the first things Mr Scott  did  as governor was to pursue a measure (later ruled unconstitutional) to drug test welfare recipients....but not lawmakers, or himself.  Have'n been accused of overseeing  the largest Medicaid Fraud of its time, and escaping prosecution largely because he had the best representation money can by; how can he not know that more than half the folks he wont let vote,  would never have a record had they a smidgen of his wealth.That... "there by  the grace of God there go I".

I suspect that the governor knows what is morally right. And,  I suppose he knows that the history books are correct. So, Is this who this good man wants to be? Do our leaders want to be compared to George Wallace and as torch bearers for the ugliest period in  American history... embody  symbols of racial backwardness and oppression?

As a Floridian  who lived through the pain and turmoil of the 60s in Florida,  I know first hand what we went through as a state. I remember what we went through  to get us to a place where we could live in more harmony, where all citizens could have self respect, could have second chances.... where families knew that the state had its back, where families rich and poor got to enjoy the many things that make Florida special.  Sometimes I wonder if our governor, not a native Floridian like this writer, in his travels around the state,  truly understands it and its people. Does he understand  what we've gone through and what we don't want to go back to. Does he not have a sense of history and the compass to gauge the aspirations of common Floridians?  Everyone does not blame the next man for their lot. Floridians  believe in taking responsibility and paying their debts to society when they error-ed.  And when the payment is made in full, they believe their mistake should be thrown out into the lake where their is a sign that says, no fishing allowed... that they get a second chance. That's who we are as a nation.  That's who we are as a state.

Governor Scott, the people are speaking loud, and their voices will become their votes   on election day to right this wrong. If not for suggested pure political purposes, the right thing could be done  now. Instead,  those whose rights you could give, but will not give.... will have to wait for the passage of an amendment that will surely pass. Yes, the current legal skirmishes will  keep many from the voting rolls on November 6, 2018. Perhaps that's helpful to some in closely contested elections in Florida. But, Is  a democracy that is based on equality and rights of speech,and  the idea of freedom and liberty  suppose to be simply a suggestion ... to be used to fit certain personal or political motivations simply because you can ? Is there not a higher calling.. beyond politics, the contest or an exercise in raw power to suit individual whim? Will Florida be that sunny place, we peddle to others; or is it going to be that ugly  and mean place where we deal from the bottom of the Jim Crow card deck ... just to keep certain Floridians permanently locked out of society, contrary to our great nations promise and what our great lady of the statute of Liberty says to us. Florida leaders, please do not continue to make us look like some racist throw back to a time we can admit was not our shinning moment.

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based  lobbyist,Founder/ President of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), Publisher of Talking Florida Politics, Founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA), President of The Dream Foundation,Inc and a writer/blogger on politics and public policy. Michael@dobsonandcraig.com, Michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@talkingfloridapolitics.com

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