Felon voting in Florida, backed by the people, is curtailed by the elected
One of last fall's most consequential referendum results, Floridians' lopsided decision to restore voting rights to as many as 1.5 million felons, has been partially reversed at the state capital.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis will soon sign a measure creating an unsurmountable obstacle to the ballot box for thousands of convicts who have completed their sentences: They will be required to pay back fines and fees to the courts before heading to the polls.
"Basically, they're telling you, 'If you have money, you can vote. If you don't have money, you can't,'" Patrick Penn, who spent 15 years in prison for robbery and burglary, told The New York Times. "That's not what the people voted for."
The GOP-controlled state House cleared a compromise version of the proposal along party lines Friday. Under the final version, convicted felons could ask a judge to waive the financial obligations or repay them through community service.
The Republicans who dominate power in Tallahassee say some restrictions are needed to clarify implementation of the ballot measure, dubbed Amendment 4 and approved with 65 percent support in November. Civil rights organizations say the legislators are taking far too strict a view of what was meant by the language of the referendum, which said rights would be restored for felons "after they complete all terms of their sentence."
Florida says it has the largest number of people disenfranchised by their criminal records, and a disproportionate share are African-American and therefore mostly Democrats. But "political scientists who study voter registration in Florida have said that re-engaging previously disenfranchised felons into the democratic process takes time and effort, and that any increase in the state's voter rolls would be gradual and would probably follow existing trends in which most new voters in the state register without party affiliation," the Times noted.
Now Iowa and Kentucky are the only two states that forever bar people with a felony record from voting. Iowa's GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed a constitutional amendment to give the franchise back to ex-cons but the idea died in this legislative session.
An increasing number of the country's largest publicly traded companies are disclosing more than ever about political spending habits that the law permits them to keep secret.
That's the central finding of the fifth annual report from a group of academics and corporate ethicists, who say the average score among the biggest companies traded on American exchanges, the S&P 500, has gone up each year since 2014.
Though corporate political action committees must disclose their giving to candidates, those numbers are very often dwarfed by the donations businesses make to the trade associations and other outside groups that have driven so much of the steady rise in spending on elections. Conservatives say robust disclosure of these behaviors is the best form of regulating money in politics and is working fine, and this new report reflects that. Those who say campaign finance needs more assertive federal regulation will argue such corporate transparency is inconsistent and inadequate to the task, and the new report underscores that.
A year from the presidential election, U.S. intelligence agencies have adopted a new framework for how they will inform candidates, groups and the public about attempts to disrupt our country's elections by foreign operatives.
But the one-page summary of the plan, released late last week, is so general that it remains unclear what the intelligence community plans to do if and when it discovers something suspicious.
The summary by the director of national intelligence states that the federal government will "follow a process and principles designed to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that notification decisions are consistent, well-informed and unbiased."
The new framework is designed to prevent a repeat of some of what happened after the 2016 election.