In 2018, Florida voters elected to give the right to vote back to as many as 1.5 million formally disenfranchised felons. “That could change elections for the foreseeable future in that state.”
I wrote that just over a month ago as I was celebrating my own recently restored voting rights and in the fog of my celebration, I forgot where I lived. After slavery was made (mostly) illegal and reconstruction was created to integrate formerly enslaved people into society and government, Jim Crow reared its ugly head to fight back. After the Civil Rights Legislation was passed in the 60s in an attempt to undo Jim Crow, the southern strategy and mass incarceration appeared. And most recently, after the historic presidency of Barack Obama, Melania’s husband was elected. Whatever you think of the electoral college (a relic of slavery) or Russian interference (they did it) it cannot be ignored that 62,984,828 people did vote for a reality TV host with zero governing experience.
As Childish Gambino once said, “This is America,” and in this America, these things have occurred:
The Supreme Court settles Roe V. Wade, Georgia passes a so-called “Fetal Heartbeat Bill.”
Stacey Abrams gets to whipping up on Brian Kemp in a governor’s election, the Secretary of State Brian Kemp just gets to disallowing a few votes.
And in this America, when the voters of Florida decide that felons will be allowed to vote, the Florida House says “slow your roll, patna.”
Passing a bill that would require felons to pay all fines and court costs before being able to vote isn’t a poll tax as some have countered. It is, however, an attempt to override the will of the people of Florida. It is an attempt to maintain power by legally suppressing votes. It is the South, rising again to stop progress.
We’ve seen this before. In fact, we’ve seen it so often that we may even believe that’s how things have to be. Two steps forward, one step back, cha cha now y’all. We get caught up in the dance when we could just, leave the club. Not this time. We’re shutting the whole club down. Yes, the new bill extends the disenfranchisement of nearly 80% of the 1.4 million felons in Florida, but that still leaves 280,000 new voters. Andrew Gillum is actively pushing a drive to register a million new voters in Florida with the goal of flipping the presidential vote in 2020. He has also joined with activists on the ground in rallying opposition to the House bill adding stipulations to Amendment 4. TEAR THE CLUB UP!
A victory in 2020 is a start, but it’s not ANOTHER opportunity to ignore history. Flipping Florida to blue will result in more attempts at suppression. Replacing Baron’s father won’t stop white supremacy. And ginger ale does not settle your stomach. That last one was for me, but the first two need our immediate attention. When we celebrate small wins, we also have to prepare for the retaliation. More potential Democratic voters doesn’t mean the end of the GOP. It means another change in tactics. It means we have to be diligent in our pursuit of progress. It means we can’t stop fighting for the world we want to see. One person. One vote. You know…democracy.
Felonious Munk, best-known as the Blegghead (Black Egghead) on Comedy Central’s “Nightly Show w/ Larry Wilmore,” is a stand-up comedian and writer based out of Chicago. You can find more of his funny and fury at munkcomedy.com.