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

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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.

Credit: @YahooNews / Twitter

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. 

Credit:@aandersonreed / Twitter

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

Trump’s Latest Direct Pitch To Hispanic Voters Was Truly Bizarre, Even By Trump Standards

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Trump’s Latest Direct Pitch To Hispanic Voters Was Truly Bizarre, Even By Trump Standards

Despite the election being more than 400 days away, the 2020 Election campaign season is in full swing. We’ve got Democrats debating substantial policy ideas in debate after debate and then we’ve got Donald Trump blurring the line between campaign rallies and presidential events.

Trump has been busy jetting from state to state (largely staying in states that supported him in 2016) to spread his message of falsehoods and hate.

Until now. 

Is Trump starting to change his ways just in time for the 2020 campaign? 

If you pay attention to the news, you’ll of heard about Trump’s “pitch” to Hispanic voters.

It makes sense that Trump would put effort into Latino outreach in New Mexico, which has the highest percentage of Latinos of any state of the country. But remarking on the tone of an ally’s skin and suggesting Latino voters have dual loyalties are probably not the best ways to do it. Trump’s comments unsurprisingly seemed to play well to his supporters in the room, but they are unlikely to win many new ones in a state where he can use all the supporters he can get

But oh, it was so much more.

President Donald Trump did his best to appeal to Latino voters during his rally on Monday evening in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. His “best,” however, was profoundly bizarre.

In one especially odd moment, Trump remarked upon how white one of his key Latino surrogates looks.

“He happens to be Hispanic, but I’ve never quite figured it out because he looks more like a WASP than I do. So I haven’t figured that one out. But I’ll tell you what — there is nobody that loves this country more or Hispanic more than Steve Cortes,” Trump said. (Cortes is a pro-Trump television commentator and member of Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council.)

“Nobody loves the Hispanics more!” Trump continued, before asking Cortes a question that suggested Latinos have dual loyalties: “Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics? He says the country. I don’t know, I may have to go for the Hispanics to be honest with you. We got a lot of Hispanics! We love our Hispanics.”

In anticipation of Trump’s New Mexico rally, the ACLU but up billboards that obviously hit some important points. 

Another one said “No Ban, No Wall, No Hate In Our State.”

While another group had this to say:

Apparently New Mexico has some legit billboard game. Who knew?

Many in New Mexico wondered why Trump was visiting a state to share his hateful views in a state that is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Trump is not doing well with Latinos in particular or in New Mexico in general. Polls consistently show his approval rating at about 30 percent.

Trump’s poor performance is dragging him down in New Mexico, a state he lost by 8 points to Hillary Clinton in 2016. According to Morning Consult’s tracking polls, Trump’s approval rating in the state has dropped a whopping 34 points since his inauguration, and as of last month, sat 17 points underwater.

Not to mention the President’s hurtful, hateful, and dangerous rhetoric used against immigrants, refugees, and basically anyone who isn’t cis white.

Nonetheless, during his rally on Monday, Trump insisted he plans to win New Mexico in 2020. His sales pitch largely centered around low Latino unemployment rates and stoking fears about immigration — but these were also key components of his campaign message heading into last year’s midterms elections, and Republicans ended up losing all five statewide races in New Mexico. At this stage, there’s little reason to believe things will be different next November.

But of course, Trump wasn’t just in Mexico to awkwardly talk about ‘Hispanics.’

He was also there to repeat many of the lies he’s now become so famous for. 

Trump spoke for 95 minutes at the rally in New Mexico on Monday night, among the longest speeches he’s given as President. And, according to CNN, he made at least 26 false claims — most of them ones he’s said before in recent months.

From blaming a former Google executive for him losing “up to 10 million votes” to saying San Diego’s mayor agrees with Trump on the wall (hint: he doesn’t), Trump was in typical Trump form. 

From New Mexico, Trump departed for deep blue California.

After leaving New Mexico, Trump headed for California — another state he lost by millions of votes in 2016. He’s there to raise funds for his 2020 re-election but he’s also getting in some attacks on the heavily Democratic state. 

Before even arriving, Trump had been shaming California cities over a very real issue — homelessness. It’s out of control from San Diego to San Francisco but many doubt that the administration is going to help address the issue with any substantial policy. Meanwhile, the President is also set to revoke California’s ability to set stricter standards on vehicle emissions, which would set up yet another legal battle between Trump and California. 

Could This Young Woman Of Color Be The Next AOC? This Progressive Political Group Hopes So

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Could This Young Woman Of Color Be The Next AOC? This Progressive Political Group Hopes So

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Inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mckayla Wilkes of Maryland has got her sights set on 2020, challenging House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for his seat. In fact, Wilkes has been influenced so much by AOC’s run for Congress in 2018, she’s now secured backing from Brand New Congress – the same progressive group that supported Ocasion-Cortez’s campaign way back when.

That’s swell and all, but why do we care?

Instagram / @meetmckayla

There’s plenty of reasons to care about Wilkes and who she is: she’s a black, working-class, 29 year-old mother-of-two studying political science in Waldorf, Maryland. When you compare her to Steny Hoyer and his background – essentially an old, white man serving his 20th term in office – you can definitely imagine that Wilkes would be more familiar with the everyday struggles that most of us face, than Hoyer. “He’s not for people that are my family, my friends, my coworkers,” Wilkes said in an interview with Buzzfeed. “It shows in the policies that he sponsors and that he endorses, and it shows in the donors that he gets his contributions from.”

Wilkes has been extremely candid and open about her past and her struggles.

Twitter / @MeetMckayla

It’s easy to see that Wilkes is as genuine as it gets, as she’s also been upfront about her past. “I just don’t want any secrets … I want everything to be out there. It’s not like I’m the only person who goes through these things,” she said, having publicly spoke about her time in jail as a teen and young adult. Wilkes has admitted to going through a rough patch, and also spoke about the abortion she had when she was 19: “It’s not like it’s something easy to do,” she told BuzzFeed recently. “It’s not an easy decision to make. But I feel like women should have that right. … My body is not a political playground. There’s no room for [politicians] in the room with me and my doctor.”

Sure, she’s more representative of the population, but what does Wilkes stand for?

Instagram / @meetmckayla

In short, it seems as if Mckayla Wilkes is running on a platform that’s kinda similar to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Things like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, affordable housing, overhauling the criminal justice system and even initiating impeachment proceedings against Trump are all on her to-do list, should she be elected. And yeah: none of these policies are gonna be easy to institute, especially as the Democrat’s current position doesn’t support impeachment. But, whoever said that running for office – and getting things done – would be easy?

She is committed to raising money for her campaign directly from her constituents.

Instagram / @meetmckayla

However, Wilkes is clearly driven by her morals, and isn’t afraid of a challenge. She’s also committed to staying away from PAC money and is seeking funding through other means. It’s meant that, since launching her campaign in June, she’s raised $70,000 from door knocking. To put it in perspective, Hoyer raised just $185 in the first quarter of 2019 from grassroots donations … and over $650,000 from other sources. What this means for Wilkes is that, having fundraised exclusively through donations from the community, her decisions and policies are tied directly to her constituents – and not other interests. More power to her, right?

It sounds like Wilkes is definitely for the people – but what is she up against?

Instagram / @leaderhoyer

Well, there is the obvious: Wilkes is running against an incumbent, and one who’s got plenty of funding and connections to boot. It’s not easy to run against someone who’s in that position. Especially when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) made an announcement earlier this year that if an organization supports candidates challenging an incumbent House Democrat, the party would cut them off from business. It means that even simple things like securing advertisers becomes that much harder for someone in Wilkes’ position.

Wilke’s campaign will be a challenging one to win but she’s got her eyes on the prize.

Instagram / @meetmckayla

Chances are that Wilkes’ campaign will face more challenges than what Ocasio-Cortez saw, too. The population of Maryland’s 5th District is 60 percent white. However, New York’s 14th District, where AOC ran for her seat, is 18 percent white. Political pundits speculate that because 2020 is a presidential election year, it’s highly likely that younger and more diverse voters will show up to have their say – which in turn should help Wilkes.

Mckayla Wilkes is no fool, and she knows that she needs to lean into the fact that she not only represents a more diverse face in the race for Congress, but also a deeper, more tangible connection to the average Joe. “That’s … what sets me apart from Hoyer and also the majority of people in Congress,” Wilkes said to the media, “because I would not be able to sleep at night knowing that I’m denying my sister health care or that I’m denying my friend a place to live or that I’m denying my classmate a place to live. So, for me, it’s personal.”