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Restoring felon voting rights a 'mess' in battleground Florida (reuters.com)
134 points by howard941 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 176 comments

This is only a "mess" because of undemocratic push-back against a ballot measure that was voted on by the people.

It isn't limited to just voting rights either. Look into the push-back in Arkansas over a ballot measure passed last year to raise the minimum wage.

Yea - I must have missed the "who have cleared any debts and fines outstanding" clause following the reinfranchisement of felons.

I know there is a large partisan divide, but one of these parties is for enfranchisement and the other one is trying their hardest to keep all those felons from voting.

> Yea - I must have missed the "who have cleared any debts and fines outstanding" clause following the reinfranchisement of felons.

Apparently they have to complete all terms of their sentences:

> > No. 4 Constitutional Amendment Article VI, Section 4. Voting Restoration Amendment This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.

Or Utah with its Medicaid expansion/medical marijuana ballot measures. The state government simply ignored the results and did whatever they wanted.

This is one of the big reasons I think Warren's first priority plan of voting reforms might be more important than any other. Gerrymandering, poll closures, voter ID laws all of it is one big effort to hold on to power despite losing the support of the voters which is the whole basis of the legitimacy of government power in the US.

How exactly do you think she will execute that plan?

Voter ID laws have been enshrined in some states through ballot measures voted on by the public, for example.

Not only that, turnout and money in politics are arguably more of a priority to tackle, in that they would make addressing voter ID laws or gerrymandering much easier.

Overall I'm not sure her "plans" to solve these issues goes far enough, or gives enough detail of how they would be executed.

Restoring the full Voting Rights Act would be a good start.

SCOTUS essentially said "this is out of date, therefore unenforceable." Then challenged congress to pass an updated one, but they have not. Some of the stuff going on was illegal under the VRA for the states it touched. I'd like to see them pass an updated one that impacts all 50 states equally, it would be much harder for SCOTUS to find it outdated then.

> How exactly do you think she will execute that plan?

Like most Presidential plans, it requires Congressional support, but beyond that it's not unusually difficult; while the feds can't do it for all elections easily, Art. I S4 gives Congress the power to make or alter regularions for House elections superceding state rules and Congress can also adjust the safe harbor rules for considering Presidential electoral votes properly given to use Presidential elections as a hammer, and states are unlikely to separate out qualifications for different offices to limit the effect of such federal regulations, because it would radically increase the administrative complexity of elections.

There's the most power on the level of federal elections where congress has the power to dictate the "time, place, and manner" at any time (Article 1 Section 4). So for the whole of Congress they have pretty full and broad powers to make whatever they want happen. To get similar things at the state levels there's the ever useful strategy of just dangling a large pot of money for states. And ballot measures aren't completely binding they can be modified by the legislature of the individual states.

I do think money in politics is a big issue but with Citizens United it's hard to do anything about that since "spending money is speech" means there's very very little wiggle room in the 1st amendment for putting a stopper on the geyser of corporate money. [1]

[0] https://medium.com/@teamwarren/my-plan-to-strengthen-our-dem...

[1] Is a real messy problem. Personally I think corporations getting the full rights of citizens is a bit bonkers and I wish there was an easy way to draw a line between people collectively pooling their money for speech and a corporation doing the same thing. Maybe some test around profit making or something to tamp down on the feedback loop of companies spending money to make way more money in return from legislative changes.

In the vein of "dangling money", elections are expensive to run and states would not want to double spend to follow their rules + Fed rules.

Yeah I imagine that's part of the calculus too that it would be easier to use the same rolls, machines and rules but getting them to reform the district drawing process would be somewhere our hypothetical Warren admin would probably have to incentivize with money.

If she had a democratic senate, it’s easy. You tie it to highway funds and block grants.

The Federal government reigns supreme.

This is a super valid question given all the obstructionism that's likely to come out of any attempt to reform the system - that said I'd take a politician who recognizes the importance of this over one who is happy to wallow in the corruption any day.

Being in favor of enfranchisement is certainly a better starting point than being against it.

FWIW, Buttigieg has been saying the same thing since the beginning of his campaign.


So did Lawrence Lessig in his ill-fated campaign in 2016.


I don't know about the rest of it, but gerrymandering definitely needs to go. Getting rid of gerrymandering is nothing but a "win" for every American voter regardless of political affiliation.

An issue for proposals that seek to ban gerrymandering is that it is quite difficult to quantify and measure how "gerrymandered" a particular district is, since it all depends on what your goal is. Are you trying to do blind population representation? Are you trying to "groups" of people (for some definition of "group"), etc.

FiveThirtyEight did a good podcast series on gerrymandering that discusses a lot of these problems (and potential solutions to them): https://fivethirtyeight.com/tag/the-gerrymandering-project/

Gerrymandering is only possible in first-past-the-post systems, if you have several mandates per district, the problem goes away completely.

Another nice side-effect is that proportional representation breaks the two-party system.

You don't even need proportional representation, which brings its own separate set of problems. Just use approval voting or range voting. That destroys the two party system by itself, which in turn destroys gerrymandering because then local parties or independent candidates can adapt to how the lines are drawn regardless of how you draw them.

> Are you trying to do blind population representation? Are you trying to "groups" of people (for some definition of "group"), etc.

This interacts especially poorly with first past the post.

Suppose you have a state which is 60% Republican and has 10 districts. Do you draw 10 districts that are each 60% Republican? Then the Republicans may get all 10 seats, but in theory the Democrats at least have a chance in any given district, so nobody can do anything too outrageous or they could still be ousted. Whereas if you draw the districts along party lines then you get 6 Republicans and 4 Democrats but they're all safe seats which means that nobody is really accountable to the voters anymore.

Switch to range voting and the problem goes away, because two closely aligned candidates no longer split the vote which means there is no longer any such thing as a safe seat, nor can one side or the other claim disproportionately many seats because more closely balanced districts would elect centrists.

You'll get edge cases, but in a lot of gerrymandering situations it's clear enough even if it can't be perfectly quantified.

We've got SCOTUS precedent for this sort of thing:


SCOTUS recently said partisan gerrymanders were non-justiciable which as far as I can tell basically shuts the book on it until the balance on the court changes.

If congress passes a law that says "Partisan gerrymandering is illegal, the courts can determine if a district is gerrymandered", then that would be enough to make partisan gerrymanders justiciable.

Not exactly. There's still state-by-state work happening on this front, which can still make a big difference. And there's hope: Voting fairness is something that the republican voters seem to respond to, even as their representatives seek to claw it back, as the case in Florida nicely illustrates.

Voter ID laws and Poll closures both target specific voting blocs with strong party affiliations intentionally and (often) explicitly. Both make it harder to vote.

In a perfect world ID laws could be ok but it would require a huge project to ensure every legal voter had some form of ID, eg. going door to door to ensure people who have trouble getting to out of the way DMV locations don't get left out and assistance with gathering any required documents, so far none of them have included this crucial step. It doesn't help that the number of voter fraud incidents is vanishingly small so the supposed issue voter ID laws are supposed to be addressing is a lie.

Maybe people could how it's done in other countries.

Here in France: when I move to a new city I go register with an ID. Then before elections I receive a voting card. Also: elections are on Sunday so most working people can go vote if they want to.

I'm not 100% clear on what you mean, sounds like automatic voter registration, ie when you go to the DMV to get your license/ID you're automatically registered to vote?

That would help a lot and I'd love to see it but it only deals with one side and doesn't solve the issue of people who are legally able to vote but don't have a current ID.

I'd also love to see election day moved to a Sunday or be made a federal holiday with some requirement that everyone be given sufficient (potentially paid?) time to vote.

> when you go to the DMV to get your license/ID you're automatically registered to vote?

No. First thing to understand is you are required to have a valid ID (ID card, passport or driver's license) so almost everyone has at least an ID card (even children).

You have to go register to be able to vote in a city. You don't have to change when you move but it is easier to vote where you live instead of going back to where you lived 3 years ago.

Oregon has a "motor voter" act, where you are automatically registered to vote if you have a driver's license (and are of age). We also do vote by mail, so it doesn't matter when the election day is. Just send in (or drop off) your ballot before voting closes.

Voter suppression is not nearly comparable in France and in the US. The system used in France would thus likely not work.

For instance imagine that the voting enrollment office is 30km from your work/home and that it is only open during work hours. It is likely that poor people/people without a car/etc would not enroll.

> it would require a huge project to ensure every legal voter had some form of ID

Without an ID, how do people at polling places know they're a legal voter?

Using the honor system made sense a century or two ago when most people lived all their lives in the same place where they grew up and everyone at the polling place knew everybody. But that's not the case now and hasn't been for a long time. With all the talk about securing our election process against tampering (which I'm all in favor of), if it doesn't include voter ID, it's not secure.

> the number of voter fraud incidents is vanishingly small

The number of known voter fraud incidents is very small. But if ID isn't required to vote and we just accept people's word when they say they're eligible to vote, how could you ever prove voter fraud?

You don't just show up and vote pretty much anywhere any more and when you're put on the list of registered voters the information is freely out there to be challenged and validated against many other sources. People do this a lot and yet most of the errors found are things like misspellings, old registrations without any votes since the new registration was made (ie someone moved and they were still on the roles at their old location) and similar small largely inconsequential errors.

> The number of known voter fraud incidents is very small.

Don't forget there was a whole presidential commission set up after 2016 to hunt for any signs of voter fraud and they found, as far as I recall, nothing.

Again I'm not against ID in spirit but the implementation never attempts to make sure that every voter has an ID. Fundamentally that's the issue to me with voter ID laws; in the absence of any evidence of consequential voter fraud it's just another tactic to limit the ability to vote for political gain.

> the implementation never attempts to make sure that every voter has an ID

I would be fine with requiring voting jurisdictions to make reasonable efforts to do this if ID will be required to vote. I would also be fine with providing federal funds to allow, for example, increased resources at DMVs or other ID issuing facilities to support this.

> how could you ever prove voter fraud?

There have been expansive studies on the subject, all of which have found incredibly low rates of actual voter fraud (as distinct from clerical errors or mistakenly voting at the wrong precinct): https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/debu...

Far left organization, seems like a fair and unbiased source of information

What does that matter? It's a page of links to peer-reviewed studies, legal opinions, and article from major journalism outlets, not an opinion piece.

Yes, I'm sure it diligently looked at reviews that were opposite or critical of those studies and decided it would further their cause to list them. Where is the list that refutes this data? Here's a hint, a little searching on Google will show you that there are opposing organizations who, conveniently, leave out this far left website's "legitimate reviews" in favor of ones that follow THEIR side.

The angst against "voter ID" as a form of voter disenfranchisement makes no sense to me, as an immigrant the first thing I did when I got to the U.S. is secure a form of government issued ID - stateID or drivers license, because I understood that having an ID enabled me to do something as simple as getting a library card so that I could borrow books for my family and I https://web.ocpl.org/n/LibraryCardApplication/#/ In fact the DMV is packed with immigrants trying to get stateID because they recognize the benefits accrued from having one. The process is simple and straightforward and in my view would silence the whole "non-citizens and illegal immigrants are allowed to vote".

You can prove fraud if you show up to a polling place and the poll worker says they already have a record of you voting.

It’s not actually the honor system either they ask for your address.

> It’s not actually the honor system either they ask for your address.

I wasn't talking about eligibility based on address (though of course that should be checked too), but based on citizenship.

The only way to prove citizenship on the spot would be with a passport. The government knows your citizenship status when you register to vote.

Honestly I wouldn’t mind if the only requirement to vote was a passport to prove citizenship. It would probably disenfranchise lots of folks though, given only a fraction of the country has one.

> The government knows your citizenship status when you register to vote.

Yes, but if you register at a time other than the time you vote, how do you prove at the time you vote that you're the same person who registered and had all that information checked when they registered?

That's what the ID is for. A passport would also work, but I don't think that should be the only possible way to do it. Now that most states are supporting RealID, your state will most likely be able to issue you an ID that you have to prove citizenship to get.

You’re aware non citizens can get RealID drivers licenses too right? The only way you can prove citizenship is with a passport. Of course if you were going to the effort of attempting to impersonate someone you’d probably forge documents too which aren’t deeply checked in my experience of living in a state that had an ID requirement designed to disenfranchise black voters [0].

Ultimately it’s not a problem worth the energy of being solved.

[0] https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/north-carolina-voter-id/

As it is now, you don't need to forge anything. All you need to register for vote in California is to fill and mail a form. You can put last 4 digits of your SSN if you don't provide your state ID#. You don't need to have an address, you can just draw a map where you live. Supposedly, if you register like that (by mail) you have to show a photo ID first time you vote, however, in practice, nobody wanted to see my photo ID despite my attempts to show it.

What stops someone from filing a bunch of those with random names and random 4 digit SSNs with maps to the Skid Row or SOMA or any homeless encampment? You think they might be checking name match with the SSN? Could be, but then you can also apply for ITIN with the same random names and see if they can distinguish one from another.

If ID were to be required then you'd have to make multiple fake ids - inherently more complex and dangerous task than filling out a bunch of voter registration forms. And it could be very dangerous to show with these fake IDs at the polls where they could have government-issue scanners checking them out.

If you have any proof that someone would go to that massive effort of harvesting homeless people’s votes then I’m sure people would love to hear about it.

Given the fact that CA is also moving heavily towards vote by mail the ID issue is again entirely superfluous.

Reminds me of when my senator forgot his ID when he went to vote - so he submitted an absentee ballot the same day. Without an ID. Hysterical.

Not that I've ever mentioned that there is a homeless vote harvesting going on but since you asked: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=homeless+voter+fraud&ia=web .

ID, obviously, won't prevent vote by mail fraud but that one is harder to do since it requires a valid mailing address to receive a ballot, supposedly.

  Supposedly, if you register like that (by mail) you have to show a photo ID first time you vote
In fact, it's illegal for a poll worker to demand photo ID in CA.

But without requiring an ID, how do they validate the name? How do they validate the address? How do they stop someone from giving a completely made up name and a somewhat plausible sounding address?

Serious questions, because I'm in a vote-by-mail state, so I don't actually have to go anywhere to vote. I don't know how that all works. I had assumed they required ID and checked it, but now I'm realizing I've given too much credit to the voting system.

They have voter registration information for everyone registered in the precinct.

But how do they know the person showing up to vote is the person they have registration information for?

Because you’d have to have the right name and address while also knowing the person you’ve impersonated hasn’t voted yet.

Then you’d have to wonder why you’re going to the effort for one extra vote because this is a made up problem.

They only ask the name. The prospective voter can read the address from the log before ever being asked it as long as they can read it upside down. Even reciting "your own" address incorrectly isn't cause to deny you a ballot.

> With all the talk about securing our election process against tampering (which I'm all in favor of), if it doesn't include voter ID, it's not secure.

If it does include ID it isn't secure. So you've made voting harder but not really made it any harder for bad actors to defraud (because high quality fake State IDs can be ordered, right now, straight for abroad).

Plus statistically voter fraud isn't a real problem, it is well within the margin of error and there's no indication that it has increased. Election fraud seems far more problematic (because it requires fewer bad actors), and that may require more paper ballots and oversight (e.g. stream the vote count online).

There's no "margin of error" in an election. They're counting an exact number of votes. Are the 537 votes in Florida that tipped the 2000 election "within the margin of error"?

I don't know how it will ever go away with the Supreme Court ruling the way it did.

At the state level, like North Carolina is doing now.

A federal ruling would've been nice, but if it must happen in statehouses, then that is where voting rights activists must concentrate their efforts.

Yeah it's what'll have to happen now absent a plan like Warren's at the federal level [0] (though even this only deals with federal elections). The issue is the same people you have to convince to stop gerrymandering are the people currently doing it to protect their own electoral prospects!

[0] https://medium.com/@teamwarren/my-plan-to-strengthen-our-dem...

edit: It only directly deals with federal elections. She does have plans to get states to follow along but there's not as much power to directly force them.

FWIW, Hillary Clinton had a serious, detailed voting rights reform plan that was clearly one of her top priorities. Liberals who were convinced into believing that free college and another radical health care overhaul should be prioritized when basic voting rights stood precariously in the balance were played in my opinion.


Wow, this is pretty crazy.

> Under a Florida law that went into effect July 1, he must pay those penalties before casting a ballot or risk being prosecuted for voter fraud... Florida has no comprehensive system for tracking such fines

It's not uncommon for states like Florida to make voting difficult, but this is Kafkaesque and ridiculous.

It's pretty clearly the state government attempting to undermine the voter mandate via red tape.

If you don't live in a Republican majority state, then you might not appreciate the lengths they are will to go through at a bureaucratic level to prevent non Republicans from voting and to otherwise minimize their political power. You almost want to admire how clever and dedicated they are to it: gerrymandering, removing classes of people from ballot roles, inconvenience tactics of minimizing voting machines/locations for non-R precincts, minimizing early voting and vote by mail (or defunding them), physical intimidation at precincts, and maneuvers like the subject of this article.

You can look at the members of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidential_Advisory_Commissi... (Hans van Spakovsky, Chris Kobach) and see the impressive and coordinated job they are doing at nationalizing the effort.

They have an incredible pipeline to create "movement" attorneys and advancing them into the judicial system with the ADF, programs like the Blackstone legal fellowship, and the relatively recently accredited Liberty U law school as a feeder. They don't draw a ton of attention to themselves, but let's just say... hopefully you are Christian, white, heterosexual, and don't want/need contraception. They essentially have already won, the precedent is just working its way through the judiciary.

This isn't something to blame on one party.

Maryland is not a Republican majority state. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maryland%27s_3rd_congressional...

Illinois is also not a Republican majority state. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois%27s_4th_congressional...

I'm sorry, it is in fact a single party issue at a national, coordinated level right now. Not every R state is gerrymandered, and Maryland is a great example of how not every D state is not gerrymandered. But you have Eric Holder and the NDRC on one hand. You have Hofeller, Kobach, and von Spakovsky on the other. It should be bipartisan and simply a matter of civic duty, and I look forward to when it's that way again.

And IL 4 was drawn by Republicans after https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/7...

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois%27s_4th_congressional... "In June 1991, Congressman Dennis Hastert, a suburban Republican, filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the existing congressional map was unconstitutional;[11] the present congressional district boundaries emerged as a result of that lawsuit. A three-judge panel of the federal district court adopted the map proposed by Hastert and other Republican members of the Illinois Congressional delegation"

>But another argument is shaping up to be central to the plaintiffs’ case: Florida has no consolidated system for determining what felons owe or certifying that they have paid up. It’s a situation that ex-offenders say makes it virtually impossible for them to prove they are eligible to vote.

This seems absurd.

You can't vote because you owe us money... but we're not going to tell you how much you owe, if anything at all.

Why is paying up linked to voting? This just creates an incentive to strenuously police and fine minorities so they can't put you out of office.

Yes, exactly, it's a modern day poll tax and many people in power want such a thing.

Regrettably, it is not just people in power - the HP newsgroups had plenty of individual contributors that favored things like poll taxes, voting for property owners only, etc.

This might be UK bias, but I take "poll tax" to mean a fixed tax on each resident for community services (as opposed to say a tax based on the value of the residence), but has nothing to do with voting. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poll_tax

It's not a poll tax — it is apparently an element of the amendment Florida's voters passed, which requires that felons fulfill all elements of their sentences.

It’s consistent with all of the bullshit that southern white people in power have used to suppress black voting since the end of reconstruction.

I think it has to do with the wording of the law passed by the voters. Someone else linked the exact verbiage, but it basically hinges on the wording around having "completed" their sentence. If part of that sentence was repaying money, then until they've paid it they haven't really completed their sentence.

That doesn't cover why the state can't keep track and report out who needs to pay what, of course.

For Florida politicians, it's a feature, not a bug.

Specifically, Florida Republicans.

Oh I think that is the intent for sure.

you literally just answered yourself?

It's not absurd. You just have to realize that it's not about being fair, or even about getting money. It's about suppressing their vote.

Viewed through that lens, it's quite logical. Evil, but logical.

This is the hardest thing for me to convey to my liberal friends. This _is_ the system working as it was designed. They can't wrap their heads around the idea that some people aren't interested in advancing democracy, and that they must just be behaving illogically.

> They can't wrap their heads around the idea that some people aren't interested in advancing democracy, and that they must just be behaving illogically.

I would think anyone who has ever seen 50%+1 of the electorate support an unjust law would be less than interested in advancing democracy.

Democracy is a means: good government and liberty are the ends. That's a good part of the reason why the United States are not a democracy but rather a republic: we don't normally put laws up to the people directly for a vote, but in fact put many things beyond the reach of democracy. Freedom of and from religion, for example.

I don't really see how permitting felons to vote is likely to lead to either good government or increased liberty, although certainly the citizens of Florida had every right to amend their constitution to extend the franchise to felons, and the politicians of the state have a duty to obey their constitution.

> Democracy is a means: good government and liberty are the ends.


> That's a good part of the reason why the United States are not a democracy but rather a republic:

I guess it makes more sense if you think that rule of the people is somehow the opposite of not having a monarch.

> WTF.

Democracy is a decision-forcing mechanism that allows for a some amount of public participation in the mechanisms of governance. it is not a terminal value, it is an instrumental value. good government and liberty are the terminal values. democracy is a means to achieve good government.

Democracy is freedom, excercised collectively. If the people does not rule itself – which in terms of individuals means that everyone has about equal influence – it gets ruled by someone. That entity probably doesn't have the people's best interests in mind, if it even knows them.

We need freedom for the same reason: Because when you let a person make decisions for themselves, you have generally picked the best person for the job.

Ultimately neither are terminal conditions though, happiness is.

I have a bit of a different take. I don't necessarily believe it's about suppressing votes from a demographic. I think this is just a classic example of government mismanagement. They create a Catch-22 style set of circumstances that create a big problem but don't care enough to fix it because there's no obvious downside to just saying "meh, fuck it" since they aren't in a competitive business and don't really risk losing customers. Sure, it's possible that some elected officials don't get re-elected but the people in charge of running these systems don't really face getting fired for doing a shit job here.

Also, it's not clear from your comment if the evil but logical act is the passing of the law or creating the system in which one is unable to prove they can vote once convicted of a felony. Which did you mean?

Viewed in a vacuum with no context or history, one could believe this is a bureaucratic oopsie. However, the long and clear history of the South and Republican disenfranchisement makes it pretty clear the origin and intent of this law. To ignore that would be very naive.

The evilness is using loopholes (poor bookkeeping and a strained reading of the ballot measure) to suppress the vote and tyrannically hold on to power. Referendums get tampered with by legislatures all the time but most measures aren't concerned with voting rights.

Friends of mine worked 15 years to rationalize WA State's reenfranchisement of ex felons. For a time the most regressive in the USA. Kafkaesque. So vague and complicated, correctional and election officials themselves couldn't figure out how to administer the system. The whole mess was like a third rail (untouchable). Even explaining the actual system to law makers, to demonstrate need for reform, took a huge reverse engineering and research effort.

That's strange.

Another state I was familiar with really just had a list that some agency had... but honestly the list was only populated by in state known felons and IIRC there was no mechanism to check the list unless someone was actually arrested FOR voter fraud or something and that happened all of a handful of times when a bitter family member or spouse turned them in.

Outside that if a felon asked a judge they were almost always taken off the list because just showing the effort to care usually was enough for judges who just sent a letter to the folks with the list.

I remember thinking it was a pretty good system... if you had to have one.

Would rather not have such a system though.

I don't recall the details of our mess.

But I do remember the exfelon needed the original court (judge?) to signoff once all the outstanding fees had been paid. So process involved multiple separate bureaucracies, each its own moving target.

Worse, the interest rate on the fees made the principle grow faster than could ever be paid off, effectively resulting in permanent disenfranchisement for a large fraction of exfelons.

> ... because you probably owe us money, and we can't be arsed to find out

I sure hope their lawsuit is successful this seems like an overreach of the power of the legislature. If the people vote to make a constitutional ammendment then it should be law!

> The Tampa pastor is now a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the payments law, which was crafted by Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, also a Republican. The law came just months after Floridians approved a ballot initiative restoring voting rights to more than 1 million felons who have completed their sentences;

Not surprising that people try to hold on to power by hook or by crook. (And there are a whole lot of crooks among Florida's power elite.)

I haven't ever understood how being a felon removes a right ?

Rights aren't something the govt gives so how can the govt remove them ?

I think the confusion is between rights, and societal privilege, or "legal rights". The waters can be a bit muddied here, and there are various political philosophies here, but most Western nations follow some form of classic natural rights.

So in the context of voting, you have no natural right to vote, because in a state of nature the only authority is your own, and you don't need to vote with yourself. A society comes along, and sets up a governing body, say, democratically, and says "everyone gets to vote!". However, this isn't a right, but instead a privilege, (or perhaps a legal right) which derives its authority from society, which means society can do what it pleases with it.

Natural rights cannot be removed by society, only infringed upon. I.e. you never "lose" your right to life, just because society decides to have you executed. They've just infringed upon it in the worst possible way.

Others think govt is merely an extension of natural law...

Similarly, Sabine notes the position of John Locke in Essay concerning Human Understanding:

[Civic power] can have no right except as this is derived from the individual right of each man to protect himself and his property. The legislative and executive power used by government to protect property is nothing except the natural power of each man resigned into the hands of the community…and it is justified merely because it is a better way of protecting natural right than the self-help to which each man is naturally entitled.

True, although the government does not supersede the natural right, it just extends the protection of that right beyond what the individual can do alone. Still, a good call out, thanks!

You may be deprived, under the 5th Amendment, of life, liberty, and property via due process of law. Since felons have been convicted of crimes under due process, their right to vote (liberty) can be deprived.

Given the consent of the governed being a requirement for a govt to be legitimate. At what threshold of congress approval do we say the govt is not being given consent ?


Polled "congress approval" has no applicability, since we have direct popular election of both senators and House representatives (and, here, of state senators and representatives in Florida). The Constitution includes no direct provisions allowing disapproving citizens in California to disempower representatives in Maine (or, presumably, though I've never read the Florida Constitution, of residents of Tallahassee to disempower representatives of Miami).

Pretty sure the evidence is quite clear.

The first black president was elected promising change.

Now we have Trump who had no political background implying people want change

Choosing the least painful way to get screwed isn't consent.

assume the US voting populace was two sets of clones, 50% Mitch McConnell Republicans and 50% Nancy Pelosi Democrats - but the distribution always varied within a standard deviation (eg year to year or district to district or state to state). Maybe there's even some generational biases, where one set of clones is more common for a decade.

I think you'd find that pretty often, more than half the country disapproved of congress, even though, in the long run, each clone is equally likely as a voter regardless of geography, economic interest, etc. How could you design a voting system that's responsive to these variations?

This challenge gets more complex the more political alignments you account for.

Few people in an opinion poll of Congress are assessing their love of bicameral legislature. More commonly they're stating that they wish they could just have their way, regardless of opposing voices.

Special pleading aside, elections are how we gauge consent. What would be coercive would be if we deputized firms like Gallup and made their polls binding.

But putting principles to the side: your argument doesn't even hold up empirically. Americans have a very low opinion of Congress, but generally approve of their own representatives.

I strongly doubt the Founding Fathers intended that to mean "we should continue to deprive felons their rights to life, liberty, and property even after they have served their sentence".

At the time of the Founding, most (or all?) felonies were punishable by death; I suspect that they would have considered release from prison with disenfrachisement to be quite merciful.

I could see probation and/or a required (and taxpayer funded) civics education course as part of a conviction; but I agree. Either the civil restitution and rehabilitation (I can dream we'll be a first world nation someday) are completed by the sentencing or the sentencing is insufficient and should be fixed in the law.

Permanent dis-enfranchisement is a way of ensuring someone remains ostracized from society and is forever given reason to work against it.

In this case it matters less what the founders intended and more what the framers of the 14th Amendment thought almost 100 years later. You can read in Richardson v Ramirez a bit of a history of felon disenfranchisement; a reasonable summary might be: "there was a lot of haggling over the specific language of the clauses of 14A, but disenfranchisement for crimes was a consistent point of agreement".

Of course, that doesn't mean that it's right to disenfranchise felons (it almost certainly isn't), nor does it mean any state is obligated to disenfranchise (most states don't). It does however mean that it's not straightforward to appeal to the Constitution in arguing to get rid of it.

They were fine with depriving women and black people the right. I wouldn't expect them to have been super progressive on felons, either.

It turns out that voting is not a fundamental right else limitations on voting would be subject to strict scrutiny. They're not, and it's not, and that's wrong but that's the funky state of the law. See for ex the discussions at https://uknowledge.uky.edu/law_facpub/10/ and http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/fundrig... but with the caveats that the first article is old enough to go to grammar school and the second is old enough to vote (?), and the passage of time has done little to raise the level of scrutiny courts apply to limitations on voting.

Legally, rights can be taken away by the government. For example, prison inmates do not have the right to bear arms.

Here is a decent wikipedia article on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner_Law

And I have yet to hear of felons rights being restored that includes their rights to bear arms.

I live in FL my uncle killed two men for robbing him and sodomizing his wife in front of him, in his house. He later hunted them down and killed them fairly brutally. He was convicted of 2nd degree murder and served 12 years. His gun right where restored two years ago. He has been out for a while now and has proven that he is not a danger to society, just people who rape his wife. They do get restored if you can prove that you represent no increased danger to society by said right being restored.

That’s pretty insane. Hunting people down and killing them is the definition of danger to society.

> Hunting people down and killing them is the definition of danger to society.

There is no danger to "society" here—only to violent criminals who are themselves a danger to innocent civilians. The insane part is that he was punished with 12 years in prison for doing society a favor.

To be honest the logical and rational side of me says 12 years was the appropriate sentence. The emotional side that has a connection to him and my aunt say those guys got what was coming to them. He got the 12 years for aggravating circumstances. It was pretty brutal, he severed the things that you would use for said rape, taped them into their mouth and chained them to heavy objects and threw them into the ocean alive. He is certainly no saint, but knowing him, he would not just go out and look to commit such an act. He is actually a pretty mellow and loving guy, but he is no bullshit when it comes to his wife or his son or daughter.

The thing is FL is a really weird state and people don't realize that we where one of the last continental US frontiers and really did not become much more than disconnected remote outposts until Flagler built the railroad down the east coat which was completed in 1912, Miami did not see a boom until the 1950's and much of the rest of the state you would not be able to tell from the 1800's until the 1970's. When you get outside of South Florida, Tampa and Orlando you end up in towns that are more like what people think when they think of some small town in nowhere Texas or Alaska, so there is a lot of if you don't cause a problem there wont be a problem type mentality (I mean belive it or not we still have parts of Florida where segregation is alive and well https://journaltimes.com/news/national/blacks-whites-live-wi...).

The judge was an old school Floridian and saw it for what it was, basically don't rape the guys wife and you won't get killed. I remember at the hearing he has a lawyer that lost his shit, because the judge asked him why he wanted a gun, and he told the judge well you honor, I figured out after the fact that if I had, had a gun at the time I would have saved myself 12 years of my life because it would have been self defense. I want a gun so the next time someone tries to rape my wife, I can deal with it then and there. Instead of stewing about until I retaliate in pure anger. He sited his fear of his wife being raped again as a need for self defense and said to the judge I think I have a valid concern for self defense there since I know it can happen and have experienced it first hand.

The judge asked him if he regretted or was remorseful for what had transpired, and again he was honest and told him no, that every day he looks at his kids he remembers how their mother was brutalized and he never wanted to be helpless in that situation again. That he realized his actions after the fact was that of a man torn up with rage and vengeance and that that rage and vengeance was still in him and that some days he wished they where still alive so that he could kill them again when he is having flashbacks and cannot get rid of them, but that he would have certainly acted in self defense back then had he been armed and in the future if the same event occurred he would defend himself and his family then and there and thus it would be a justifiable homicide. He said in his current circumstances with little children, he would not have taken the course of action that he did but that he would still feel the same way. That he was OK with having to pay his debt to society but it would be too high of a price to pay now having children.

The only person that was more surprised than me that his rights where restored, was probably his lawyer. I think the judge appreciated his honestly as he was being truthful, short of harming his family, he has no desire to kill.

I totally get the rationale, I'm just surprised it happened that way today. Where I live, someone with that kind of record would have a hard time getting cleared to be a janitor. I'm not sure if your story is horrifying or a breath of fresh air!

My uncle who I spent alot of time with was a big-city detective. He had more than one story about someone who did something similar (understandable anger/rage about a horrific event). Justice in the city is different -- premeditation and vigilante action outside of an immediate event is as serious as the original act, best case it gets a favorable plea deal, etc.

Agreed he got the sentence he owed to society, He never complained about it. Vigilantism always turns bad if a blind eye is turned towards it. But the reality is, he is no threat to society beyond the fact that he will protect his family and he displayed rational thought to the judge that if he had been older and wiser he would have defended himself and his wife then and there. Which is not vigilantism it is self defense. Do I think he is still capable of the same act, sure, but I think the event is highly unlikely to happen twice as they are both more mature and take security seriously, and well lets face it she is not in her early 20's anymore.

Judge felt there where mitigating factors in the fact that he witnessed his wife being raped, the judge felt that in the absence of another individual raping his wife he did not have a higher inclination to kill than the average citizen thus his gun rights should be restored. See my comment below, the judge felt that the mitigating circumstances, counterweighed the aggravating circumstances that got him a larger sentence and thus he had paid his debt and owed no more to society, thus his right should be restored.

I saw a retrospective on California's death row inmates whose sentences were commuted when the death penalty was overturned. California's maximum penalty was 25 to life. Most of the two dozen death row inmates were eventually paroled.

One of them moved to Montana or some such and refused to be interviewed. But the local Sheriff agreed to say a few things. One of which was the guy owned a deer rifle but agreed with the Sheriff that it was best not to bring it into town.

I think that it’s possible in many states, but very difficult. That seems fair.

Personally, I think that it should be possible but difficult for felons to earn back the right to vote. Not as difficult as earning back the right to bear arms, but more than just completing their sentences. Still, it’s up to each state to set its own rules for these things.

Why do you think regaining the right to vote should be more difficult, and for that matter, lost at all?

In my opinion, loss of the right to bear arms only makes sense for violent offenders.

Im not sure what the argument is for the loss of the right to vote is. Is it simply punitive? A deterrent?

I think it’s punitive. Felonies are (or should be) truly serious crimes, the worst of the worst — if a crime doesn’t warrant permanently branding someone as outside the norms of civil society, then it shouldn’t be a felony. There should of course also be a process for truly repentant and changes felons to earn back their privileges, but it shouldn’t be easy.

I think that there’s a good argument that we have too many felonies which aren’t actually truly vile crimes. But I also don’t believe that Robert Hansen, John Gotti or the Unabomber should be voting.

Why is that surprising? If you kill somebody, you will obviously have some of your rights taken away.

Depends on why you kill them.

Q: If the govt tells you to kill someone is it wrong ?

A : it depends :)

The government can absolutely remove them. That's what prison is.

Because the government can. Ask the Jews in Nazi Germany how "rights" worked for them. Prior to Hitler coming to power, Germany was the most advanced and liberalized society of its time.

Maybe the actual rights have clauses on them that go, "provided that you haven't stolen, defrauded, or assaulted anyone," and you're just reading the abridged version.

It's actually that the Constitution doesn't really define who can vote.

It forbids certain sorts of discrimination - gender, race, age (past a point), but leaves the rest up to the states.

California could, as far as I can tell, forbid voting by blondes, or by people who need glasses, or ban anyone who's had ice cream in the last month from the polls.

> California could, as far as I can tell, forbid voting by blondes, or by people who need glasses.

Not unless the Supreme Court decided to throw out, like, the whole of 14th Amendment Due Process and clause jurisprudence, where it comes to standards for impairing or discriminating in fundamental rights and voting’s status as such a right. (I wouldn't put it past this court, but even for them it would be an unusual break with settled Constitutional case law.)

And even then, Constitutionally, only blonde females and males under 21 if it doesn't want to lose seats in the House, since another part of the 14th Amendment (though this has historically not been enforced) makes denying males 21+ the vote for any reason other than conviction of crime mean reduction, in equal proportion, to House representation.

> And even then, Constitutionally, only blonde females and males under 21 if it doesn't want to lose seats in the House, since another part of the 14th Amendment (though this has historically not been enforced) makes denying males 21+ the vote for any reason other than conviction of crime mean reduction, in equal proportion, to House representation.

That just further highlights the bafflingly cobbled-together nature of the whole ruleset.

Women and 18-21 year olds got the right to vote after the 14th Amendment, and the way the Constitution gets amended (new articles that do not specifically update the provisions they modify) is prone to produce (at least, in the bare text; with litigation, some of this gets smoothed over in case law, though there's not a lot of litigation on the provision at issue to do that) incomplete updates and inconsistency.

  Women and 18-21 year olds got the right to vote after the 14th Amendment
To clarify: After, but not as a result of. (See Amendments 19 and 26)

Right, as a result of later amendments, hence why the penalty provisions of the 14th Amendment related to disenfranchisement don't take them into account.

(Sharp observers will note that race also wasn't explicitly a prohibited category until a later Amendment—the 15th—as the three civil war amendments, 13th-15th, were not ratified simultaneously despite being a related package, so blacks were considered in the disenfranchisement penalty clause before they had an individually-protected right to vote.)

> Rights aren't something the govt gives so how can the govt remove them ?

Rights are something that a government gives. You only have rights insofar as they are respected by the government that controls the area in which you live. "Human rights" or "unalienable rights" are nice ideas but insubstantial.

That aside, I think felons should be able to vote.

> "Human rights" or "unalienable rights" are nice ideas but insubstantial.

The US was founded on the idea of unalienable rights

Our rights have been alienated when the government felt like it. Which is true for all supposedly unalienable rights.

You have rights as long as you are are a recognized member of the political system that controls the territory where you live. But there are plenty of people "on the margins" who simply don't have rights and governments reserve the right to expel people from the political system at will.

Database and records issues aside, it seems that the constitutional amendment was pretty clear:

"No. 4 Constitutional Amendment Article VI, Section 4. Voting Restoration Amendment This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis."

If the fees are part of parole or probation, then the felons should be not be able to vote. Does florida not have a database of who is or isn't on probation?

If the fees are not part of parole or probation, the new law should be clearly unconstitutional.

> Does florida not have a database of who is or isn't on probation?

Apparently not when it comes to fees owed as part of that.

> Tyson searched court records, first on his own, then with the help of a nonprofit legal advocacy group. They say that because Florida has no comprehensive system for tracking such fines, the documents don’t make clear what he owes. The records, viewed by Reuters, show potential sums ranging from $846 to a couple thousand dollars related to crimes he committed in the late 1970s and 1990s. Tyson says he won’t risk voting until Florida authorities can tell him for sure.

It's pretty ridiculous. If no government entity can give you a straight answer to the question "if I vote in the next election will I go to jail?", you are disenfranchised for all practical purposes.

>Apparently not when it comes to fees owed as part of that.

I think there is another more likely answer: Probation is tracked, fees have not traditionally been considered a requirement for probation completion, and the legislature is trying to shift the lines.

> ... fees have not traditionally been considered a requirement for probation completion ...

Is that the case? It seems like I've heard of cases where probation comes with requirements ("wear this tracking bracelet") that are provided by a private entity who bills the convict, and if the bill isn't paid, probation gets revoked.

My understanding of the article is it applies to those who completed probation, not those who's probation is ongoing or revoked.

> "all terms of their sentence including parole or probation"

I'm not a lawyer, but the word "including" typically isn't meant to preclude other items in a class; e.g. "all costs are specified in the bill including taxes" wouldn't typically be taken to mean that only taxes are specified. If court ordered fines and fees are considered a part of the "terms of their sentence" I don't see a contradiction.

I suspect (and I'm talking out of my bum here) that the verbiage is something along the lines of "...and any such sums required to conduct parole or probation...", then the service is outsourced to a private firm, and the private firm simply isn't monitored for due diligence in reporting accurate information to the state.

It seems like the legislature and Governor tried to skirt the intention of the electorate and in practice prevent people with convictions from voting.

I'm not sure how the law is actually skirting the constitutional amendment. It seems to actively conflicting with it. I updated my post to be more clear.

It's using a technicality (fees which are not tracked are "part of the parole") that is BS on its face, but taking it to court would take so long and be so not worth it, that the desired effect would occur anyways- which is continuing to deny felons who finish their sentences voting rights.

A factor here most people aren't aware of is that it's common for probation and parole to include 'supervision fees' charged to the probationer or parolee.

These can supposedly be waived in the case of someone not being able to afford them, but it's not unusual for judges to decide that any living situation short of literally living on the street (and sometimes even then) means the fees are 'affordable'.

If parole is tracked and the felons are not on the list, then I'm not sure it even counts as a technicality.

I agree the desired effect is likely the same.

Like my sibling point mentions, it's using a technicality and probably in bad faith to engage in voter suppression.

Whether the fees are a term of their sentence seems to be the most pertinent point.

The fact that Florida seems to be having so much trouble figuring out how many fees are still unpaid suggests that they should not be considered a part of the sentence.

I’m not sure how you made that jump. It’s surely a problem, but anything a person is sentenced to is part of their sentence. The law doesn’t seem particularly ambiguous here.

These fees aren’t a direct part of sentencing, I don’t believe, but a side effect.

If you’re sentenced to pay a fine, then you’re sentenced to pay a fine. There’s really nothing to debate about that, and I haven’t seen any specifics mentioned in this thread or elsewhere that would suggest anything else is going on, only a lot of outraged speculation.

That does seem to be the most defensible argument.

It really just seems to be a clearly stated requirement of the law.

So I found the law and you are correct that it is clear what fees are in and out of scope, despite the several articles i read to the contrary.

The relevant portion starts at line 1345:


"developing a procedure to send counties regularly updated lists of felons on their rolls who have unpaid fines and fees, but it has no timetable as to when it will be ready"

Oh, I know when it'll be ready. About 2 weeks before the election, just in time to purge voters without giving them enough time to do anything about it.

I wonder if labyrinthian fines could get classified as excessive fines, somehow. But if the fine complexity is O(n) where n is the number of convictions you have, I don't see what the big deal is.

The problem isn't the number of fines, but that different clerks and offices will all claim that the total and remaining fines are all different amounts.

For a bit of context the current governor, Desantis, squeaked into the win with less than 40,000 votes. He is trying everything in his power to not be a one-term governor. So far he has:

* Liberalized his platform to appear more moderate. Terms are 5 years and a new generation of voters.

* Supress black votes through kafkaesque voter registration.

* Suppress black votes by denying ex-convicts (who make up a large block of felons) the ability.

It shouldn't be a mess. We voted for it and it passed. When we voted, there was no stipulation that repayment was necessary. That came after and that bill should have been struck down because that was not the will of the people.

On the bright side, there is no governorship or senate seat up for grabs, so the stakes are considerably lower.

Yup, just the 29 Congressional seats and President. Oh, and all the state legislative seats. Not to mention mayoral seats and other state measures. Or any 2020 ballot measure. Not much at all, really.

Just another poll tax.


If too many poors voted it would undermine our class structure through democracy. Can't have that happen. /s

Building on what you said, everyone should have the right to vote, totally unobstructed, even if they are in jail. Otherwise, you incentivize putting people the powers that be don't like in jail.

At least one state (Vermont) does allow people behind bars.

For the rest of them, prison populations are another form of concentrating and diluting power: prisoners are counted toward district population, but have no voting power.

I'm in the camp that thinks everyone should have the right to vote, prisoners included. Voting is a fundamental component of citizenship, and being imprisoned shouldn't take that way as a matter a principle, nor should a citizen be disenfranchised after their release (as is also common, especially in the states that enacted all these laws in the Jim Crow south era).

Especially if we want former prisoners to play a more positive role in society after their release, stripping them of a right of citizenship, possibly indefinitely, seems like a bad way to do it.

Well said.

I am amused that too many people on HN take the thinnest logical wedge of situations like this and say "see! It make sense!" and essentially ignore the effective outcome.

It's a very "computery" thought process - compilers are kind of like this. But when deployed in defense of the undefendable, it really does disservice to "our" community. One that I do not feel proud of being part of anymore.

I think a lot of people also don't make a distinction between punitive and rehabilitative justice.

Do I want to punish people? No, the threat of punishment seldom deters people (there's even that saying, it's better to ask forgiveness than request permission). I don't care about punishing people, I care about having a better society. Helping people who've done wrong fix their mistakes and be better citizens is what I care about. If punishment did that, then sure, let's do it, but it doesn't.

People need to get past their need for vengeance, whether dressed up as justice or laid bare.

A simple thought experiment that can also help people reevaluate their views on this kind of thing:

Imagine if [thing you like] was illegal, punishable as a minor felony with a year in jail and the subsequent loss of voting rights. You know that 60% of the population supports [thing you like] and would like to have it legalized, but because a substantial chunk of this population has been or will be punished this way over their lifetimes, support of [thing you like] only gets a minority of the vote. The 40% of the population that opposes [thing you like] uses this to claim that most people oppose [thing you like] and want it to remain illegal.

That is the whole issue with the criminalization of drug consumption it creates all kind of societal issues and it screws up other areas that at one time where and still should be reasonable. It get compounded with laws like the 3 strike rule where you get hit with 3 small non-violent offenses and then they can really jack up the charges and get you on a felony.

I am all for true felons loosing their right to vote. I don't want people that have run ponzi schemes, violent high volume drug dealers or pedophiles to have the right to participate in the society I live in. I think it is criminal that some meth head that gets slapped with a felony for having a little too much on them goes to prison, gets out, turns around their life and now cannot participate fully in society due to poor laws.

I would personally prefer voting remain unconditionally open to everyone, because treating it that way avoids future societal repression over [insert moral panic over reasonably harmless subject here] and because the total number of the kind of people you cite are a rounding error compared to overall voter turnout totals.

So only people that can express some self-restraint get to vote? Sounds like a good idea.

Or people rich enough to get off scot-free—because you know that people in Hollywood and assorted politicians also do [thing you like], sometimes quite openly, and never seem to actually get punished for it.

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