Perhaps more than ever, today’s presidential election could come down to who has access to the vote in Florida.
Until 2018, Florida was one of only four states that permanently banned people with felony convictions from voting. This draconian measure, which particularly targeted people of color, motivated multiple grass-roots organizations to get together and amend the Florida constitution on the November 2018 ballot. Sixty-five percent of Floridians voted yes on what became Amendment 4 to restore voting rights to former felons.
Florida’s Republican-led legislature and governor then decided to overrule the will of the voters by creating new obstacles for former felons to vote, especially paying fees and fines. In many ways, it amounts to a poll tax by a new name. Some estimates indicated 1.4 million Floridians would have received their right to vote back. But as a result of the legislature’s actions, only about 300,000 of them were eligible to register to vote.
Understanding that disenfranchisement has become a successful route to securing political office, outside funders masked by the mysterious “Keep Our Constitution Clean” political committee, proposed an amendment on the November 2020 ballot. Little is known about the donors since Florida does not require political committees to disclose much information. But the purpose of the new ballot measure, also titled Amendment 4, is clear: to make it even more difficult for future grass-roots initiatives to pass by forcing the people to have to vote on a measure twice before it goes into effect.
The result of this legal maneuvering in Florida is a 21st-century version of Jim Crow, now matured into James Crow Esq. The intent — to restrict minority community access to the ballot box — is the same, but the methods of voter suppression have become more sophisticated.