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Matt Gaetz demonstrates that Florida Republicans have no desire for ex-felons to vote. Image via AP.

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Joe Henderson: Matt Gaetz rips bandage off GOP voter suppression charade

Florida Republicans really don’t want felons who served their time in prison to vote.

In case there ever was any doubt, Florida Republicans really don’t want felons who served their time in prison to vote.

Ever.

They will do whatever they can get away with to keep that from happening. Don’t try to pretend for one minute they won’t.

Oh, they might say otherwise when microphones are around, but Florida’s resident representative blabbermouth, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, basically ripped the bandage off that charade.

He demanded an investigation into Michael Bloomberg’s gambit to pay the fines and court costs of some Florida felons. Theoretically, that satisfies their debt to society and restores their right to vote.

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“It’s not every felon. It’s just those which they have specifically identified as the Biden voters,” Gaetz told Lou Dobbs on Fox Business. “That’s offering a bribe, an inducement, for someone to behave a certain way in voting.”

As if on cue, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate if Bloomberg’s offer constitutes bribery and vote-buying.

“After preliminarily reviewing this limited public information and law, it appears further investigation is warranted,” Moody wrote. “Accordingly, I request your agencies further investigate this matter and take appropriate steps as merited.”

CFO Jimmy Patronis quickly piled on. He requested the Florida Elections Commission investigate to see if Bloomberg is “trying to illegally influence the outcome of Florida’s election.”

Gaetz celebrated with a tweet: “Bloomberg’s billions will not buy Florida.”

Right, that’s Rick Scott’s job.

It is logical to assume many reformed felons might vote Democratic, but there is no proof. They might buy the “LOCK ‘EM UP” and “LAW AND ORDER” spiel Republicans like Gaetz parrot from the White House puppet master.

OK, maybe not.

Bloomberg said his offer affects about 31,000 people who registered to vote before Republicans won arguments in court to force repayment of fines. So, let’s examine that.

In terms of this election, it probably won’t make a difference either way, even with Florida’s traditionally razor-thin vote margins.

First, there is precious little time to register before the Oct. 5 deadline. Also, in many cases, fuzzy record-keeping means local officials can’t determine how much money a person owes. If they crawl through two-decade-old case backlogs to see what has or hasn’t been paid, it might take a year or more to decide single cases.

“That the Director of the Division of Elections cannot say who is eligible makes clear that some voters also will not know,” U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in May. It was part of his ruling that requiring felons to pay full restitution before they can vote was unconstitutional.

Hinkle called it a “pay-to-vote system.”

The state appealed and the ruling was overturned, so we’re back where we started. Felons are in limbo, and now Bloomberg is under a microscope, and Gaetz is jibber-jabbering on Fox.

In other words, the Republican vote suppression plan is working perfectly.

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I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
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