Ron DeSantis says he didn’t write ‘voting is a privilege’ tweet
Ron DeSantis disclaims 'word salad' tweet

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Gov says that's not how he talks ...

As controversy percolates over a tweet about voting rights from Gov. Ron DeSantis, a unique defense has emerged.

The first-term Republican told reporters in Jacksonville Friday that he didn’t write his “voting is a privilege” tweet that elicited considerable negative reaction this week.

“It’s kind of a word salad, it’s not necessarily how I talk,” DeSantis said.

The full statement: “I am pleased that @FLCourts confirms that Amendment 4 requires fines, fees & restitution be paid to victims before their voting rights may be restored. Voting is a privilege that should not be taken lightly, and I am obligated to faithfully implement Amendment 4 as it is defined.”

DeSantis was heralding a Supreme Court ruling that held that felons, as Republicans wanted, are on the hook for court fees, fines, and financial restitution. However, the description of voting rights as “privilege” nettled critics.

“Well, first of all I don’t tweet, so you can talk to my staff about what my words are,” the Governor said.

“The bottom line is with the felons, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, they don’t have a right under the 14th Amendment,” he added.

“Now Florida voters enacted this. And so that restored or at least made eligible certain classes of felons. We enacted legislation to implement that. There was lawsuits,” DeSantis said.

“So we went to the Florida Supreme Court to say ‘OK, is this the proper thing?’ And then they said basically what the Legislature did effectively, they interpreted the Amendment,” he added.

“We’re going to enforce the law as it is. If folks qualify, they’ll be eligible. If they don’t qualify,” DeSantis said, “they wouldn’t necessarily have access to it.”

Failure to pay restitution was identified as one reason for not qualifying.

DeSantis said he did not support Amendment 4, as “it enfranchises violent felons,” but he has a “duty to implement” it.

The Governor noted that even “liberal” justice Jorge Labarga sided with the conservative majority in ruling that Amendment 4 required all sentence conditions to be fulfilled.

Amendment 4 backers see it differently.

“We think, of course, it’s wrong, that the language in and of itself should be restricted to everything associated with a sentence except for the LFOs, and we are emphasizing that this is an unconstitutional poll tax or an unconstitutional form of wealth-based discrimination,” Southern Poverty Law Center deputy legal director Nancy Abudu told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview Thursday.

Though the Florida Supreme Court is a win for DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Legislature, it is non-binding and in no way marks the end of the fight over the amendment’s implementation.

A trial is set to begin in April in the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee. In that lawsuit, civil rights groups along with voting rights groups allege the implementation bill is unconstitutional.

In a separate federal lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled last October that it’s unconstitutional to bar felons from voting who are “genuinely” unable to pay their financial obligations. DeSantis’ administration has appealed that decision.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments in the appeal Jan. 28.

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


6 comments

  • Tankster

    January 17, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg should stroke checks for say $5 million each, to fund a payoff of the fines from the least amount to the most due. That would add thousands to the rolls. Florida is pretty much a 1% state and they could make a Yuuge difference.

  • Frankie M.

    January 17, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    There was talk of a go fundme to restore voting rights for felons. Of course that wouldn’t be necessary if the Gov & legislature did not try to thwart the will of the voters at every opportunity.

    Maybe instead of privilege Desantis meant pleasure?

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    January 18, 2020 at 7:44 am

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    comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
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  • Marshall

    January 18, 2020 at 10:01 am

    Voting is a privilege, not a right. No one has a right to vote for another’s purse. Who cares what the morally bankrupt SPLC says.

  • Jim Crow

    January 18, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    You tell em, Govn’er! Will of the people I say!

  • Janis Lentz

    January 19, 2020 at 8:16 am

    DeSantis should be ASHAMED of himself, going along with the knee jerk racist and vote-suppressing Republican Party of Florida, a mob organization if ever there was one! A totally out of place character who can barely express himself, without coming off as an awkward bumbler—he is an embarrassment, once again to all of Florida!! DeSantis and the legislature have funded ZERO dollars to the all-important 2020 federal census, to raising public awareness about its importance in Florida securing adequate federal funding by getting an accurate count of Florida residents! Our getting a new congressional seat DEPENDS on this count, so WHERE is the leadership, Ron? We suffered for 8 years with Republican scofflaw Rick Scott and it looks like we’re making zero progress again with this Bozo DeSantis!

Comments are closed.


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