On January 24, 2017, President Trump asserted  that  he would have won the popular vote had it not been for 3-5 million fraudulent votes. It is  an  assertion debunked by all, but Mr. Trump  does  touch on a subject of importance. Which is, that votes and voting matter.

America’s problem is not fraudulent voting, It is systemic voter suppression and the denying of voting rights for productive and contributing citizens.

Florida remains one of less than a handful of states that does not have automatic restoration of rights for those citizens returning to their communities from incarceration. It serves society, families and communities no good purpose when citizens  who have paid their dues for a life mistake to be perpetually  marginalized  by such draconian  disenfranchisement,  when their hard work and taxes pay for the roads, the schools and contribute to those things our government is responsible for. Contrary to making our communities and families whole after that family (yes the family) has served a prison sentence, the continued disenfranchisement of that husband, father, mother or grandparent,  does nothing to allow that family to assume a place of value and inclusion into their  community.

The disenfranchising of over 1.6 million tax paying citizens has no residual benefits. Florida's policy of denying the right to vote to 1.6 million of our neighbors  lacks the basic tenants of Christianity and has no moral standing. Further, this base disenfranchisement belies certain facts of our broken  criminal justice system. In plain talk, to begin with,  the system favors the wealthy;  which is a fact that no one would deny. Therefore, those who find themselves caught into its throws are not necessarily the most guilty, or in many cases, not  guilty at all. They are simply poor, and could not buy their way out of a bad situation by obtaining  the best legal representation available. For instance, would Stanford student Brock Turner and University of Colorado’s Austin James Wilkerson ( both proven to be rapist),  escaped prison sentences,  had they been black and poor? I think we all know the answer. Moreover,  Ryan LeVin , from a wealthy Chicago family, admitted to a hit and run that killed two British Businessmen in South Florida and was not sentenced to even one day in prison. Currently, there is an impoverished black man from  Tallahassee named Daryl Myles doing a 15 year sentence in a Florida prison for taking $7.00 from another man in what is a street level crack cocaine deal gone bad. One could write adnauseam   about the disproportionate sentencing in the courts and the role race and wealth plays, but in Florida,  what is additionally egregious is the unnecessarily overly punitive societal barriers  our state erects for citizens returning  to our communities.

The mere act of voter disenfranchisement is a blatant disregard for what makes our nation remarkable. Our founders said that “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal”, but what happens in our courtrooms and later in states like ours is contrary to those founding ideals. Yes, it is true that in their debates about who could vote, the founders leaned toward property owners and white men. But in time,  the framework and  philosophical foundation of our founding documents would not let that stand. We looked into the mirror and at the meaning of those documents, and  ultimately relented to the truth that not only should all men and women be treated equally, but equitably as well. Equity is every citizen’s ability to cast a vote to determine whom would decide the fate of their families, our nation and their tax dollars.  This  is not  a partisan issue.  The right to embrace the franchise is actually a very Republican idea rooted in freedom and liberty.

Today, in congress and in state legislatures there exist a “Freedom Caucus”.  The Freedom Caucus is where  Republican lawmakers make a  commitment to "freedom" as their guiding principles in all policy decisions. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation because he read our bill of rights and our constitution as documents that placed "freedom" as the cornerstone of our democracy. Until recently, the GOP had sought to live up to that creed.

Freedom  is the right to cast a ballot, and is an  extension of liberty…. as in “Liberty For All”,  or   “Liberty University”,  which gives homage to that creed.  This idea  that when one has been jailed and/or is convicted of a crime that the right to vote has been  forfeited is misguided and  un-American.  We are a nation of redemption, of civil rights, of second chances, full participation  and of inclusion.. not alienation. Disenfranchisement is actually alienation. The emasculating disproportionate disenfranchisement  that systemically deny full citizenship to  heads of  families in one community, not only affect that individual family member, but  have essentially alienated and marginalized entire  communities. It has weakened the voice of the meek.   Such does not promote family values, build strong families, harness strong cities  or strengthen communities, and is certainly not  conservative.

This writing may never reach our governor’s desk. But, the hope is that somehow this writing will  remind us of  who we are as a nation. And, remind us of  the core ideals, values and  the Christian principles our nation was founded on.  Automatic restoration of voting rights for citizens returning to our community is a principled stand for our constitution; and the rights imbued by our founding fathers ideals for this democracy, Restorative justice that includes access to the franchise at reentry   better reflect our humanity, and Christianity.


Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based governmental relations professional and columnist; President/CEO of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), and renewable energy policy leader as founder of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Can be reached at michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@dobsonandcraig.com







Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.

%d bloggers like this: