From Salon, here’s David Weigel with a look backwards at the GOP’s history of voter suppression in Florida:
James Ridgeway writes on the mechanisms that keep voting rights away from felons. In Florida, for example, home to around a quarter-million black men with felony convictions, the new-old rules force “any former felon who wanted to regain voting rights to appeal directly to the governor.”
What does that mean? In a 2004 Vanity Fair piece titled “The Path to Florida,” David Margolick and a team of reporters looked at the manifold ways that the state can keep people off the rolls. They attended one voting rights-restoration hearing for Beverly Brown, “a black Miamian who has been applying for seven years.”
“Thank you, Governor and Cabinet,” she says, her voice trembling as she looks up at Jeb Bush, in a beige suit, and three of his cabinet members, seated above her on the dais. “I’m a graduate patient-care technician, and there’s nothing more I’d like to do than to utilize my skills to help others.”
She has been lucky enough to have had some private health-care jobs; recently she cared for a young quadriplegic. But what she’d really like is to get a state license — something she can’t do unless her civil rights are restored. Her convictions, all drug-related and nonviolent, date back almost 20 years, except for a more recent conviction for having been caught with pot.
“Since when have you been drug- and alcohol-free?” Jeb asks flatly, looking up from her file.
“About nine years,” says Brown.
“O.K., in 2001 there — you were convicted of marijuana possession?”
“I had — yes, it was in my possession, but it didn’t belong to me. Someone left it in my car…”
Bush gives her another once-over and delivers his verdict. “I’d like to take this case under advisement.” It’s not a no, but it’s not a yes either. Over the next couple of weeks, Brown will try to find out why the case has been on hold, but she’ll get no answers; Bush is not required to give any.
Some two years before this hearing, Governor Bush’s 25-year-old daughter Noelle had been sentenced to ten days in jail after crack cocaine was found in her shoe at an Orlando drug treatment center.
Governor Bush was not in the courtroom. He was campaigning for reelection elsewhere — accompanied that day by his younger brother, President George W. Bush, himself a recovering addict. But their sister Dorothy flew in from Maryland to represent the family at the sentencing.
My questions: Were Noelle’s civil rights ever restored by a governor, so that she could vote in Florida and maybe even become a licensed patient-care technician? And if so, by which governor?
As for Beverly Brown, who really cares? The world is full of Browns.