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Florida amended its Constitution to allow felons to vote if they had completed all aspects of their sentence. I resided in the state at the time and voted for that amendment, which passed. Why? Because our justice system is predicated on the premise that once you fulfill all aspects of your sentence, whatever they are, it's over. You incurred a debt by committing a crime, you paid it, it's done. Period.
If the penalty is insufficient to deter a second offense or protect the public the problem lies in the sentence itself, not some retroactive punitive measure. Fix the problem. We have a revolving door justice system for many offenses on purpose and instead of holding the proper people to account we wave our arms and scream. Nope.
Well, the ACLU and others didn't like the fact that fines and restitution had to be paid (they're part of the sentence!) and sued. They got a court to overturn that. This was illegitimate and should have gotten people locked up instantly, or the entire amendment thrown out. A higher court figured it out before a bunch of someones had to be fed to sharks and reversed.
This pissed off the Democrats of course, who expected former felons to vote for them.
So Bloomberg, and now others, have decided to go down a different road. They're paying the fines.
This has prompted howls of "illegal vote-buying" by Matt Gaetz and others. Which is a flat-out lie.
Florida has a rather explicit statute on this and it's a good law. It states:
104.012 Consideration for registration; interference with registration; soliciting registrations for compensation; alteration of registration application.—(1) Any person who gives anything of value that is redeemable in cash to any person in consideration for his or her becoming a registered voter commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. This section shall not be interpreted, however, to exclude such services as transportation to the place of registration or baby-sitting in connection with the absence of an elector from home for registering.
(2) A person who by bribery, menace, threat, or other corruption, directly or indirectly, influences, deceives, or deters or attempts to influence, deceive, or deter any person in the free exercise of that person’s right to register to vote at any time, upon the first conviction, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, and, upon any subsequent conviction, commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(3) A person may not solicit or pay another person to solicit voter registrations for compensation that is based upon the number of registrations obtained. A person who violates the provisions of this subsection commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
There is no compensation being given ("anything of value redeemable for cash") nor any threat, bribery or deception, nor are they paying people on a "per-registration" basis.
That paying someone's fine allows them to vote where they otherwise could not is not prohibited. There is no prohibition on paying someone else's fine or restitution; in fact that happens all the time. Family members often pay someone's fine who doesn't have the money in various instances; witness someone who gets busted for DUI and is bailed out both by money and, oh, maybe influence of their Dad? We don't know anyone that might apply to, do we?
There has to be direct consideration in exchange for the action. There isn't. That paying off felons' fines they can't cover leave them able to register to vote and then exercise their franchise is immaterial. The statute is quite-clear; I cannot pay you $50 to fill out the form and register. That's a felony. But if you're prohibited from registering because you owe a $5,000 fine for some previous criminal offense and I pay the fine what you choose to do after that is not under my control.
The law is clear on this folks. Frankly, this is an extraordinarily expensive operation for people like Bloomberg; fines and restitution in felony cases where the person who was convicted cannot pay are typically quite large. If you got busted for felony theft, for example, it's not uncommon for there to be a punitive fine and restitution in the amount of whatever you stole! If the fine is small it's not hard to pay, especially over many years' time. But if it's large, well, that's why it doesn't get paid.
So Gaetz, shut the **** up. You're wrong on this and you know it. The bottom line is that if Bloomberg wants to blow millions of dollars (or more) paying someone else's fines, so what? That's a social good. The fines and restitution are real money owed to real people. Fines and restitution are typically imposed not just as a punitive measure but as cost recovery for both the jurisdiction that had to prosecute you and to make whole the person you screwed. They're a legitimate part of the judicial process and compliance isn't about hurting the person convicted, it is about making whole the person(s) who got screwed in the first place as a result of the criminal act, including all the taxpayers who had to pay for the cops, jail, judges and juries.
There's no crime here -- this is nothing more than a complaint by Gaetz because he believes that those who were convicted of felonies will overwhelmingly vote Democrat. Well, they probably will -- but that they will doesn't make a bit of difference when it comes to the law, as it's not illegal to be Democrat.
It might be stupid to vote for a geriatric old coot who has had two strokes and can't even read a teleprompter, but it's not illegal.