Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Politics

Romano: Once again, Florida shows up as a national punch line

We can be a little goofy here in Florida, and thatís putting it politely.

We specialize in screwball crimes and cartoonish politicians, and normal people across the nation tune in whenever they want to feel better about themselves.

Comic relief is our niche, and a lot of us seem to embrace it.

But, Iíve got to tell you, the stateís stance on felon voting rights is something else entirely.

It doesnít just put Florida out of step with the rest of America, it puts us on an entirely different planet. And thatís not an exaggeration. No state comes close to matching Floridaís cruelty on this subject.

"Itís shocking," said U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. "And itís embarrassing."

Only in Florida is this such a contentious issue. A district judge recently ordered Gov. Rick Scott to immediately fix the problems created by his administration, and a grass roots effort has amassed nearly 1 million signatures to permanently address the issue via a constitutional amendment.

And just so weíre clear, this isnít a simple difference in philosophy or policy. Itís a fundamental issue the rest of America has figured out, and yet Florida has chosen to view it through a 19th century lens.

Think of it this way:

Less than 2.5 percent of the nationís adults are banned from voting because of their felony records. Thatís about one out of every 40 adults. In Florida, itís more than 10 percent. Or one out of every 10.

Now thatís a math equation even I can understand. It means Floridaís rate of denying voting rights is more than 300 percent higher than the other 49 states. That seems excessive, donít you think?

Hereís another way of looking at it:

Floridaís estimated 1.5 million disenfranchised voters, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, is more than Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee combined. When youíve managed to out-Jim Crow the entire South, itís time to do some soul searching.

Because, the truth is, these numbers impact black residents at a disproportionate rate, which is exactly what they were intended to do when passed more than a century ago.

Part of the problem is the way Floridaís laws are written. Felons permanently lose their voting rights and must apply to the state to have their rights restored after completing their entire sentence, including probation and fines. That makes Florida unusual, but not completely alone.

Three other states also require some type of pardon or appeal for a felonís voting rights to be restored. The real difference has been in the way Scott has applied the law. One of his first acts as governor was to impose a five-year waiting period for felons to even apply to have their rights restored, along with adding all sorts of bureaucratic hoops to navigate.

But that was just a warmup for the main attack.

Scott and the Cabinet simply ignore most of the requests.

In Cristís final year as governor, he oversaw the restoration of rights for 27,456 felons, according to the Brennan Center. In Scottís first year, he restored voting rights for 52 felons. If this were the stock market, that would translate to a drop of 99.82 percent.

This has nothing to do with public safety. I donít even think itís driven by misplaced vengeance. Itís mostly a way to limit a voting group that Republicans assume will be left-leaning.

In the days before his election as governor in 2006, Crist, who was then a Republican, told a reporter that he would be in favor of restoring felonsí rights for certain criminal offenses.

"The next day, a lot of my friends from the Republican Party were calling my office," Crist said Wednesday. "They all said, ĎWhat are you doing? This is not what we want.í And I told them the same thing Iíll tell you today: I believe in forgiveness and second chances. Itís the right thing to do."

Itís bad enough Florida is known as the mecca of jokes.

Do we also want to lead America in shame?

Comments
Romano: A Tampa Bay Ďsuperstarí caught in the crosshairs of Trumpís border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay Ďsuperstarí caught in the crosshairs of Trumpís border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bayís most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trumpís border...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says heís willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says heís willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18
Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

The Trump administrationís move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.Itís also...
Published: 06/17/18

Pasco Political Notebook

Perenich to ĎWalk the DistrictíStephen Perenich, Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Florida District 12, will be "Walking the District" June 25-29. Perenich will be walking 55 miles in five days, starting in Dade City and heading...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/18/18
GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administrationís aggressive policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its "zero tol...
Published: 06/14/18
Sarah Sanders and  Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Sarah Sanders and Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Press secretary Sarah Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are considering stepping down, according to a CBS report. Sanders promptly responded in a Tweet saying, "I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS." Does @CBSNews k...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

WASHINGTON ó The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate for the second time this year and signaled that it may step up its pace of rate increases because of solid economic growth and rising inflation. The Fed now foresees four rate hi...
Published: 06/13/18
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

TAMPA ó Law enforcement officers never want to be outgunned. Neither do political candidates.Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister need not worry.The Republican candidate has amassed what appears to be a record-sized war chest of just more than $1 mil...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18