Things That Matter

Here’s How Miami Is Fighting Against The Republican Party And Allowing Former Felons To Vote

There is positive news out of Florida that may affect the lives of countless former felons when it comes to voting rights. According to the Miami Herald, Miami-Dade has a plan in place to help felons restore their right to vote, even if they owe restitution or other fees. The plan, which was announced Monday by the county’s top prosecutor, public defender, and clerk of courts, would create a quicker system where state judges can override some financial penalties that would otherwise stop an ex-felon’s involvement in an election.

An estimated 150,000 former felons in Miami-Dade will be able to apply to the program allowing them to vote despite Republican Governor Ron DeSantis trying to limit their involvement.

Credit: @NAACP_LDF / Twitter

The plan, also referred to as a “rocket docket”, for its speedy disposition of cases and controversies that come before it, is expected to be put in use across Florida. This will include Broward and Palm Beach counties, where for years lack of voting rights for felons played a big role in local and national elections. 

“Make no mistake, this will be rolled out in every judicial district in Florida,” Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, told the Miami Herald

If implemented, the plan could prevent a lack of sufficient money from becoming a stoppage to voting rights and would assist former felons to navigate through the courts.

“It isn’t anti-anybody. People like to paint it like that. It’s pro-people. It’s about doing something that’s right and it’s about doing what the law and the constitution say,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told CBS4. 

The plan won’t cover everyone with a felony conviction. An individual who owes restitution required as part of their sentence can’t be accepted, as well as anyone convicted outside of Miami-Dade County. A felon who is charged with murder or sex offenses can reinstate their voting rights only by petitioning Florida’s Board of Executive Clemency.

Back in November 2018, 64 percent of Floridians voted in favor of Amendment 4 that reinstated voting rights for former felons in the Sunshine State. Shortly after taking office as governor, DeSantis made threats against the amendment, despite the approval of Floridians. In order to curtail the democratic process that allowed ex-felons to regain their right to vote, the Republican-led Florida Congress, with approval from the governor’s office, added language forcing people to fully pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote.

The move to restrict those who can get their voting rights back has been called a poll tax.

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By forcing ex-felons to pya fines not tied to their punishment, the Florida Republican Party is forcing more than one million voters from registering. It is a clear attack on voters rights and voting rights activists are fighting back.

The plan is a long time coming for many in Florida who have been wanting to be a part of the political process. 

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Anthony Hannah is one of those ex-felons that wants to be able to have a voice in the political process in the 2020 presidential election. The Miami-Dade native told a local Florida news station that he was was sentenced to 12 years in prison for robbery and burglary back in 1992. He would appeal the case and would enter a plea without truly understanding the consequences of being classified as a habitual offender. 

After getting released in from jail in 2001, he steered clear of trouble until 2014 when he was accused of possession of marijuana. Even though Hannah wasn’t convicted of the crime, fees from the trail began to increase. The County Court put him on a payment plan and paid almost $470 in fees by 2015.  

Hannah is a perfect example of a voting system long-plagued with disadvantages, particularly when it comes to people of color in low-income communities. It was until last November, when Florida voters approved Amendment 4, allowing convicted felons who complete all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation, the right to vote, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.

There was one small detail to the amendment, state lawmakers added various fees, fines, and restitution. This went into effect back on July first.

“Over a million Floridians were supposed to reclaim their place in the democratic process, but some politicians clearly feel threatened by greater voter participation,” Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. 

Several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union,  have since filed federal lawsuits with hopes to get rid of the financial requirement section of the bill.

While there are still some obstacles to overcome, this is a step in the right direction. 

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Meade has been fighting for the bill for years and sees the latest amendment as a sign of things to come. After working on the law and adding specific language, judges can “modify” a sentence by moving  fines to community service hours or even stipulating that various financial fees won’t stop a convicted felon from registering to vote. 

“Court fines should not get in the way of voting,” Broward State Attorney Michael Satz said in a statement. “We are working on a final proposal to get this done in the best and simplest way. We expect to have a finalized plan in the next few weeks.”

READ: Julián Castro Stays Strong, Joe Biden And Kamala Harris Defend Records And More In The Second Democratic Debate

Democratic Candidates Joined Forces To Call Out Former Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Recent Past

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Democratic Candidates Joined Forces To Call Out Former Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Recent Past

elizabethwarren / mikebloomberg / Instagram

The Democratic candidates met in Las Vegas for the 10th Democratic Debate. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg took the stage in a heated debate ranging from income inequality to immigration. But the biggest focus was Bloomberg’s record of racial profiling and income hoarding.

Last night was the 10th Democratic debate in Las Vegas and Senator Elizabeth Warren started off with a dig against Mike Bloomberg.

“I’d like to talk about who we are running against, a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,” Sen. Warren said at the beginning of the debate. “And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg. Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk.”

Sen. Warren that she is prepared to support whoever wins the nomination but warned about the dangers of electing Bloomberg. She added: “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another. This country has worked for the rich for a long time and left everyone else in the dirt.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden joined Sen. Warren in calling out Bloomberg.

“Let’s get something straight. The reason that stop and frisk changed is because Barack Obama sent moderators to see what was going on. When we sent there to say that this practice has to stop, the mayor thought it was a terrible idea that we send them there. A terrible idea,” Biden told the audience. “Let’s get the facts straight. Let’s get the order straight. It’s not whether he apologized or not, it’s the policy. The policy was abhorrent and it was, in fact, a violation of every right people have and we are the ones, our administration, sent people in to moderate it and at the very same time, the mayor argued against that.”

Biden added that Bloomberg didn’t come up with the idea of ending the policy on his own. Bloomberg was forced to end the policy because of outside legal and political pressure.

Bloomberg argued back that his record on criminal justice is no different in its ability to determine the right course of action.

“I’ve sat. I’ve apologized. I’ve asked for forgiveness. But the bottom line is that we stopped too many people and we’ve got to make sure that we do something about criminal justice in this country,” Bloomberg argued. “There’s no great answer to a lot of these questions and if we took off everybody who was wrong on this panel, everybody that was wrong on criminal justice at some time in their career, there’d be nobody else up here.” 

Bloomberg’s history of making women sign non-disclosure agreements after filing complaints against him also came up.

Sen. Warren took aim at Bloomberg’s long history of sexual harassment and gender discrimination hidden behind non-disclosure agreements.

“I hope you heard what his defense was, ‘I’ve been nice to some women.’ That just doesn’t cut it,” Sen. Warren said after Bloomberg told the audience that he’s given some women top jobs in his organizations. “The mayor has to stand on his own record and what we need to know is exactly what’s lurking out there. He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign non-disclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace. So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those non-disclosure agreements so we can hear their side of the story?”

Bloomberg answered Sen. Warren claiming that the non-disclosure agreements are mainly because “maybe some of them didn’t like a joke I told.” Bloomberg further argued that the women wanted to sign the non-disclosure agreements and that “we’ll live with it.”

Bloomberg’s comment about women not liking his joke was met with boos and groans of disapproval from the shocked audience.

Sen. Warren also made sure to include that Bloomberg blamed the housing crisis on minorities.

During the housing crisis, Sen. Warren held hearing to figure out what was happening that forced millions of Americans from their homes. At the same time, Bloomberg was blaming Latinos and African-Americans for causing the housing crash.

What do you think about Mike Bloomberg’s record with minority communities?

READ: Michael Bloomberg Apologizes For Stop-And-Frisk Policy But A Racially-Charged Audio Clip Shows A Different Side

Michael Bloomberg Apologizes For Stop-And-Frisk Policy But A Racially-Charged Audio Clip Shows A Different Side

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Michael Bloomberg Apologizes For Stop-And-Frisk Policy But A Racially-Charged Audio Clip Shows A Different Side

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An audio clip is circulating that shows Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s full-throated support of stop and frisk and racial profiling. The candidate has tried to distance himself from the racist and dangerous policy that did more damage to minority communities than it solved crimes.

Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s own words supporting racial profiling are coming back to haunt him.

The clip is from a speech the former mayor of New York gave in 2015. In the speech, he not only defends the use of stop and frisk but uses racist stereotypes and tropes to make his point. Bloomberg admits that he wants his police force to racially profile people in order to make the arrests. How? Well, Bloomberg believes that you can send the police to minority communities because that is where the crimes are committed. He also claimed that the victims and murderers fit one M.O. so you can Xerox the description to all of the police so any Black or brown person should be treated as a criminal subjected to unconstitutional searches.

But, don’t worry. Bloomberg feels bad about it now and wishes he acted sooner.

Before the event in Houston, Bloomberg tried to brag about how he cut back the program by 95 percent before he left the office of Mayor of New York City. However, what he fails to tell people is that during his time in office, he expanded the stop and frisk program. He also pressured the police force to keep the number of arrests and stops with stop and frisk at very high levels for years. He only cut back the program because his office was facing numerous and mounting lawsuits and political pressure.

Basically, Bloomberg is now apologizing for a program he embraced and expanded while mayor of New York. He is now backpedaling his racist comments and association to the program because he is running for president. Does he have any actual remorse? That’s yet to be proven.

In speaking to potential voters at the Christian Cultural Center, a Black church in Brooklyn, Bloomberg showed remorse for his handling of the controversial stop-and-frisk policy. During his 12-year tenure as mayor and well after he left office, Bloomberg defended the policing strategy which allowed city officers to stop and search anyone they suspected of committing a crime.

“I was determined to improve police-community relations while at the same time reducing crime even further,” Bloomberg said at the church. “Our focus was on saving lives. But the fact is: Far too many innocent people were being stopped.”

Statistics show that the policy didn’t work as it should have and instead targeted people of color in the community, most notably Black and Latino residents.  

Credit: @ava / Twitter

The stop-and-frisk policy was in place long before Bloomberg took office in 2002 and has long been viewed as a policy that directly targeted Black and Latino communities. The strategy allowed city police to detain an individual and subject them to unnecessary searches sometimes to look for possible weapons, drugs or other paraphernalia. An officer would have to have a reasonable belief that the person is, has been, or is about to be involved in a crime. The purpose of the policy was to deter violent crime in the city but, in return, it destroyed police-community relations for years in New York. 

“The temperature in the city at the time was that the police were at war with Black and brown people on the streets,” Jenn Rolnick-Borchetta, the director of impact litigation at the Bronx Defenders, told the New York Times. “And that is how people experienced it.”

Statistics show that Black and Latino people were nine times as likely as white people to be stopped by police officers when it came to the policy. They were no more likely to be arrested, the New York Times reported back in May 2010.

During Bloomberg’s tenure as New York City mayor, there was a huge spike in the overall use of the stop-and-frisk policy. According to the New York Times, the number of stops reached a peak of 685,724 in 2011 and then fell to 191,851 in 2013. In Bloomberg’s 12 year tenure as mayor, there were 5,081,689 stops by police recorded. 

Political pundits and criminal justice reform advocates are fiercely criticizing Bloomberg’s sudden backtracking on the controversial policy.

Credit: @NYCmayor / Twitter

There has been a growing wave of criticism for Bloomberg’s sudden policy walk back that is coming just as he is set to announce his 20202 campaign run. Many are criticizing Bloomberg as changing his tune in an attempt to appeal to the voters once terrorized by a policy he spent over a decade defending. One of the most high profile critics has been current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who dropped out of the 2020 presidential race earlier this year. 

“This is LONG overdue and the timing is transparent and cynical,” Mayor de Blasio tweeted.“With all due respect to my predecessor, we’ve spent six years undoing the damage he created with this bankrupt policy. We ended stop and frisk AND drove down crime. Actions speak louder than words.”

Another critic was social justice advocate Shawn King who decried Bloomberg’s apology. He voiced what some see as a political walk back in midst of a potential run at president. 

“BULLSHIT. After years of running the Apartheid-like policy of stopping and frisking millions of people of color throughout New York City, and then defending it every day in office, then every day he was out of office up until this week, @MikeBloomberg,” King tweeted

Many view his apology as a way to try to gain Black and Latino voters. More importantly, it is seen as an attempt to regain years of lost trust between him and the community. 

Credit: @amandawrites / Twitter

“The fact is, far too many innocent people were being stopped while we tried to do that. The overwhelming majority of them were black and Latino,” Bloomberg told church attendees on Sunday. “That may have included, I’m sorry to say, some of you here today. Perhaps yourself or your children, or your grandchildren, or your neighbors, or your relatives.”

There is one notable person that has voiced his approval in Bloomberg’s apology, Rev. Al Sharpton, who said the former mayor reached out to him. He says that history will be the judge of the policy-making that Bloomberg had in New York City. 

“Whatever his motive is, I’m glad that he’s taking this stand,” Sharpton told the Daily News. “We will have to wait and see whether it was politically motivated but Mr. Bloomberg should be judged by the same standards we judged Joe Biden, the author of the 1994 Crime Bill that led to disproportionate numbers of Black and brown men going to jail for years, as well as Senator Bernie Sanders, who voted for it.”

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