Florida voters want to make their state more democratic, so of course the conservatives in power are going to fight that effort tooth and nail.
On a November ballot stuffed with over a dozen amendments for Floridians to vote on, Amendment 4 was hailed as one of the major wins for progressives and voting rights activists in the Sunshine State and across the nation. With the backing of 65 percent of voters, Amendment 4 passed, granting felons that have served their sentences—about 1.4 million folks in Florida—the right to vote. The amendment’s supporters say it should immediately go into effect on Jan. 8. Shockingly, the incoming Republican governor does not share this view.
Florida Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis said in an interview with the Palm Beach Post published last week that he doesn’t believe the amendment should immediately take effect. Instead, DeSantis wants the measure to be taken up by the state legislature when it convenes its first 2019 session on March 5.
“I don’t think that it’s self-executing,” DeSantis told the Post. “I mean, I think that if you look they have exceptions for who’s not eligible for that. They do not enumerate the statutes that you could violate. And so there just needs to be implementing language. I don’t see any way around that — regardless of whether you want it all to be implemented tomorrow or whether you’re trying to kind of frustrate it. But bottom line is, there’s going to be a law that we’re going to have to pass in order to comply with that amendment.”
His opposition to applying the amendment wholesale shouldn’t be surprising—DeSantis opposed Amendment 4 for the entirety of his campaign, standing against Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum, who’s now attacking him for dragging his feet.
In September, when the Tampa Bay Times asked DeSantis whether he would support Amendment 4, he flatly said he does not “support automatic restoration of voting rights” for felons, and continued blowing the conservative dog whistle that he would be “very tough on crime” if elected.
Still, DeSantis conceded to the Post that he still expects some form of legislation on the matter to be passed within the initial 60-day session by the state government, saying, “There’s no way you can go through this session without implementing it.”
And that’s true—thanks to the will of the voters, conservatives will have to pass some sort of law that restores the right to vote to the million-plus citizens sitting on the political sidelines. But Floridians can be sure that DeSantis and the leadership in the legislature are going to do everything in their power to limit the scope of this bill because, well, that’s just what people who have to repeatedly claim they’re not racist do.