Outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday immediately restoring voting rights to more than 100,000 ex-felons convicted of nonviolent offenses.
“This disenfranchisement makes no sense,” Beshear, a Democrat, said in his announcement. “It makes no sense because it dilutes the energy of democracy, which functions only if all classes and categories of people have a voice, not just a privileged, powerful few. It makes no sense because it defeats a primary goal of our corrections system, which is to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes.”
With his decision, there are only two states in the entire United States of America that does not give ex-felons their voting rights back after they completed their sentence, Iowa and Florida.
It’s an old story here in the Sunshine State. More than 1.6 million Floridians cannot vote, hold office or serve on a jury, according to The Sentencing Project, a prison-reform group.
Democrats in the Florida Legislature have railed for years against what they call this injustice, but have nothing to show for their efforts. Things did change in 2007, when the clemency board under then Gov. Charlie Crist began to automatically restore the rights of nonviolent offenders who served their time — and a total of 155,315 got them back during his four-year term. However, that policy was reversed when Rick Scott was elected governor in 2011.
There is an effort to change that here in the Sunshine State, but as I reported back in September, the effort to put the issue on the ballot as a constitutional amendment next year is struggling.
The Legislature could change it next year, but they’ve shown no interest in doing so.
Florida ranks at the bottom of a lot of different lists in the country, some of them you’d think they’d want to change. Restoring voting rights for those who’ve paid their debt to society isn’t one of them.
In other news …
For years, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has been under fire for a variety of perceived or real transgressions. The agency is under fire again, and there will be attempts soon in the state Legislature to eliminate them, once again. Read how executive director Kyle Cockream is contending with it all.
There’s going to be a special election for a Tampa City Council seat in less than a year, now that Lisa Montelione has opted to run for a state house seat. Several candidates have been bandied about, but Gene Siudut is more enthusiastic than any candidate right now that he wants the gig.
Days before he returns for a campaign appearance in Sarasota, Donald Trump announced the hiring of four staffers to his Florida campaign.
And former Secret Service agent and Maryland Republican political candidate Dan Bongino says he’s seriously considering entering the Republican race for Senate here in Florida.
And Ben Carson is fading and Ted Cruz is surging in Iowa, the home of the first caucus in the country next year.