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.

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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

Latino Voters Deliver Bernie Sanders Major Victory In California Primary

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Latino Voters Deliver Bernie Sanders Major Victory In California Primary

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Fourteen states voted on Super Tuesday and Vice President Joe Biden led the pack of Democratic candidates. Bernie Sanders, despite a decisive win in California, now has the second-highest delegate count. Latino voters made their voices heard, especially in California where they delivered Sanders a strong victory.

Sen. Bernie Sanders won the biggest Super Tuesday prize: California.

According to Vox, Latinos in California largely supported Sen. Sanders. Forty-nine percent of Latino voters in the Golden State voted for Sanders with 12 percent voting for Vice President Joe Biden. There was a clear generational divide in support for Sen. Sanders. Seventy-one percent of Latinos 18-29 supported Sen. Sanders while 35 percent of Latinos 45-64 supported the Vermont senator.

Sen. Sanders won more than a million votes in California earning him 135 delegates.

As of noon March 4, 87 percent of precincts were reporting giving Sen. Sanders a commanding 9-point lead over Vice President Biden. Leading up to the election, Sen. Sanders was polling highest among Latino voters and it seems Latinos came out to vote and gave Sen. Sanders the advantage he needed to win California.

However, young voters, Sen. Sanders’s key voters, turned out in smaller numbers during the primary.

The number of young voters in Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina was down compared to the 2016 primary elections. In Alabama, 10 percent of voters were 17-29 this year compared to 14 percent in 2016. Young voters are the key demographic for Sen. Sanders and the lack of voting participation from young voters contributed to Sen. Sanders’s lackluster night.

Vice President Biden pulled off an unexpected and impressive performance.

Vice President Biden won 10 of the 14 states during Super Tuesday, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s home state Massachusetts. Black voters in the southern states came out in huge numbers to cast their ballots for Vice President Biden. Six states are voting in their primaries next week and there are 352 more delegates up for grabs that week. A candidate needs 1,991 candidates to secure the nomination outright before the convention. So far, Vice President Biden leads with 566 delegates and Sen. Sanders is a close second with 501.

READ: Bernie Sanders Leads Democratic Candidates In Latino Supporters And Donations

Bernie Sanders Faces Backlash For Saying That Not ‘Everything Is Bad’ In Castro’s Cuba

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Bernie Sanders Faces Backlash For Saying That Not ‘Everything Is Bad’ In Castro’s Cuba

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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is once again touting what he sees as the benefits of Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The Vermont senator first made comments praising parts of Castro’s Cuba in a 1985 interview. Now, 15 years later, Sen. Sanders is standing behind his idea that not everything is bad in Cuba in a 60 Minutes interview.

Senator Bernie Sanders is facing backlash from critics after his 60 Minutes interview because of his comments on Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

In the 1980s, Sen. Sanders was caught on camera more than once praising parts of the Castro regime in Cuba. He points to the health care and education systems as parts of the government that works for Cuban people. The comments resurfaced in 2019 and caused a backlash against the senator in the Cuban diaspora, whose pains are still fresh from the overthrow of the government.

Now, in a “60 Minutes” interview, the Vermont senator has doubled down on his comments that some of the Cuban government is good.

Anderson Cooper – “What is Democratic Socialism?”

Bernie Sanders – “When Donald Trump was a private businessman in New York, he got $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies to build luxury housing. That’s called Socialism. What Democratic Socialism is about is saying, ‘Let’s use the federal government to protect the interest of working families.’”

BS – “We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba. But, you know, it’s simply unfair to say that everything is bad. You know, when Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing, even though Fidel Castro did it?”

AC – “There were a lot of dissidents imprisoned in Cuba.”

BS – “That’s right and we condemn that. Unlike Donald Trump, let’s be clear. I do not think that Kim Jung Un is a good friend. I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.”

The comments have sparked some backlash on social media from Cubans and Cuban-Americans.

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Senator Marco Rubio, who is Cuban-American, has been a vocal opponent of Socialism. He has used the crisis in Venezuela to solidify his point about the dangers of the government system he believes Sen. Sanders wants to start in the U.S. Yet, Sen. Sanders’s point is not that the Castro regime is good. In the “60 Minutes” interview, the senator made it clear that he does not support the Castro regime and the brutality it caused for the Cuban people. However, he does believe there are things we can learn from the Caribbean island about offering health care and education to the population.

One point of contention with the senator’s comments is that the Cuban people didn’t fight back because of the new programs.

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The Castro regime is known to have oppressed dissidents and political opponents. Speaking out against the authoritarian regime was not safe. People were jailed, killed, and exiled for standing up to Castro’s rise to power. Families fled the island and settled around the world to escape what they saw as a justifiable threat to their lives and sovereignty.

Some people are sharing personal stories of their families’ treatment under the Castro regime.

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The generational trauma created by the Castro regime is still felt today. Some people used Sen. Sanders’s comments as a chance to tell a fuller story of the government some have praised for their social services.

A clip of President Barack Obama speaking on the same social issues in Cuba is also circulating.

President Obama worked tirelessly to reopen relations between the U.S. and Cuba. He was the first sitting president to visit the island when it was announced that diplomatic ties were reopened between the two countries. Part of being able to open those relations was eliminating the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed Cuban nationals to stay in the U.S. after migrating. This allowed Cubans to be deported back to Cuba, something that hadn’t happened since Cubans first started to flee their homeland. In response, Cubans illegally in the U.S. have been subjected to ICE raids and detention for the first time because of President Donald Trump’s increasing escalation against the immigrant community.

There is a lot of concern from Democratic supporters that the comment could cost the party Florida in the general election if Sen. Sanders is nominated.

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The Cuban and Cuban-American population in Florida is a key demographic to win the state in general elections. His comments cherry-picking what is and is not good about the Cuban government is having a resonating effect in Florida. Cuban Democrats and Republicans in the state are untied in rebuking the senator’s comments as glossing over the true victimization and terror millions faced.

READ: Bernie Sanders Praises Fidel Castro And His Revolution In Cuba During Resurfaced Interview From 1985