At first blush, former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is taking up a noble fight — Amendment 4 and the Legislature’s push toward full financial restitution before allowing ex-felons the right to vote.
But in a new email from Forward Florida, Gillum’s kicker makes his effort seem just a little less principled.
“Not only has the Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis not championed this historic moment,” the one-time Tallahassee Mayor and rising Democratic star writes, quoting his recent op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times.
“They’ve been obstructing its implementation or [stayed] silent — equally criminal.”
In Gillum’s eyes, this additional hurdle for ex-felons — paying all outstanding fees and recompense before they can be allowed to vote — is nothing less than an “unconstitutional poll tax.”
The “poll tax” theme has become a talking point common among many Democrats throughout Florida, who (arguably) appeared to have been blindsided by this unexpected development, especially after approving Amendment 4 with nearly 65 percent of the vote.
For them, Amendment 4 was supposed to be self-implementing. Give ex-felons the right to vote, no questions asked. Seemed pretty straightforward at the time.
Of course, with many things in Florida, there are always unforeseen consequences.
“And make no mistake,” Gillum continues, “that poll tax was effective in preventing minorities from participating in democracy and enriching our state for generations — and this one would be effective, too.”
In blasting the Governor and legislators (mostly Republicans) for “staying silent” on the issue, Gillum indeed promotes a compassionate argument against what he calls a “campaign against voters, against ex-felons and against our Constitution.”
Gillum does make a good case. That is, at least until the end. As always, there’s a catch.
At the bottom of the email is a link to help Gillum “create a state with values wide and deep enough to represent all Floridians” — by donating to Forward Florida.
Yep, a money pitch.
While Gillum takes the high road on this issue — and he may (or may not) have a valid point — wouldn’t it be a little bit nobler if he didn’t raise cash off it?