Republicans, felons, and voting

People that know me understand that I am fascinated by strategy, broadly defined. To that end, the GOP down in Florida has me stumped. Across America, there is a wave of restoring voter rights to ex-felons. I welcome these developments and I strongly support the re-enfranchisement of ex-felons. But there’s a catch.
It makes sense as to why the Democrats would support these measures since ex-felons “overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, according to sociologists Jeff Manza and Chistopher Uggen, authors of of Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy

So why would the GOP support these efforts?

In Florida, it was one of the GOP’s own, Gov. Charlie Crist, who did the vote-restoration deed. Invoking themes of forgiveness and redemption over Easter week, Crist persuaded fellow Republicans on the state clemency board to automatically restore the vote to nonviolent former felons who had paid any restitution they owed. Florida has 950,000 ex-offenders. Crist gave the vote back to upward of 750,000 of them. Think about it: George W. Bush won Florida by 537 votes in 2000 and about 380,000 votes in 2004. 

I would like to think that Governor Crist supported these measures out of the goodness of his heart but I am a little cynical, forgive me. And before you think this is just some legislative maneuvering, “In November, Rhode Island voters approved the first state referendum to restore the vote to felons. The margin was slim—51 percent to 49 percent—but so was the resources spent by the vote-restoration side: only $300,000.” It is worth noting that Rhode Island has a Republican Governor. 

I am stumped and I fear that all of this political posturing is really a sign of a more sinister plan to influence the elections in ways we didn’t think were possible after the 2000 election. I find it ironic that one of the main complaints following the 2000 election was the way in which many Black folks were denied their right to vote because of the state’s effort to “purge” the voter rolls of felons. I hope I am wrong but it feels like the GOP in Florida is trying to erase any doubt about its integrity in administering elections for what will certainly be a critical election in 2008.

At the end of the day, the GOP is essentially giving votes to the Democrats. That’s great, but where are they finding the GOP votes to nullify the electoral impact of ex-felons?

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

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