League of Women Voters Weighs in on Elections and Other Matters in Florida

The Florida League of Women Voters (LWV) is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a host of bills, including some which have nothing to do with voting at all.

The League has been a staunch supporter of voting rights and voting access and the recently closed legislative session is no exception. The LWV sent a letter to DeSantis asking him to veto two bills dealing with comprehensive election reform.

The complaint from the LWV is not a new one. It centers on the implementation of Amendment 4, the voter-approved restoration of voting rights to most felons once they have completed their sentence that voters added to the Florida Constitution last year. The bill requires felons to complete their entire sentence, including paying restitution before they can vote again.

LWV President Patricia Brigham called paying restitution an “unjustifiable barrier” to returning citizens.

“It was evident that the majority of lawmakers had made up their minds how they were going to vote long before they reached Tallahassee, will of the people be damned,” Brigham said.

A strong majority–64 percent of voters–approved Amendment 4 last year and it was supposed to be “self-implementing” to prevent the Legislature from thwarting the will of the voters. Scott McCoy, the senior counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, insisted the two bills do just that.

“Whether it was gross misinterpretation of Amendment 4 through a so-called ‘implementing’ bill or restricting the citizen initiative process for constitutional amendments, the majority in the Florida Legislature thumbed its nose at the clearly expressed will of the people and their prerogative to amend the Constitution without relying on unresponsive and out-of-touch Tallahassee politicians, who care more about retaining power and doing the bidding of special interests that fund their campaigns,” McCoy said.

The authors of Amendment 4 though went in front of the Florida Supreme Court in the lead up to approving the ballot measure and answered this question directly for justices. When asked if the “all terms” language in the ballot measure meant a former felon would have to pay their fines before they could vote again, the author of the amendment told the justices yes, saying “all terms means all terms.”

The battle over Amendment 4 will likely head back to the courts, although the League did not say it would file the lawsuit.

The LWV didn’t stop there though in its veto requests. The League is also asking DeSantis to veto a bill which will allow teachers to carry guns in school with the proper training. The League insisted that the bill “disastrously misguided” and brought Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence Co-Chair Andy Pelosi to a press conference to help them advocate for a veto.

“Despite overwhelming opposition from teachers, parents and students across the state, the majority of the Legislature chose to ignore the voices opposing teachers carrying guns in our schools and now the governor sits as the final arbiter on how best to protect our educational spaces,” Pelosi said.

Both the Coalition and the League are calling for a special session to address school safety. The LWV also stated its opposition to a proposal championed by state Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, that would create three new toll roads in the state.

 

Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.

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