Joe Henderson: Matt Gaetz rips bandage off GOP voter suppression charade
Matt Gaetz. Image via AP.

House Votes
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.


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.

“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.

Joe Henderson

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.


  • Frankie M.

    September 23, 2020 at 10:02 pm


  • Christopher Kennard

    September 24, 2020 at 12:24 am

    This is the face of someone who lost their connection with our country when engaging in astounding behavior tantamount to treason with his dealings with Putin’s Russian Mafia and KGB assassin types who are trying to undermine our efforts to dump Trump and send him to a state or federal courthouse to face the charges for the crimes he, his criminal family and cohorts committed . . . .

    But young fella . . . not in my name . . . not on my taxpayer’s dime . . . and damn sure not at any time will I continue to permit the atrocities we see Trump and his minions commit to pass unnoticed or unaddressed in the correct fashion it must be handled. . . like this character . . . who continue to commit acts against the best interest of our people and our country . . . by attempting to stir up violence . . . create more chaos . . . inflame the divisive divisions they stoke as they move to disenfranchise thousands of American citizens of their right to vote and have all of our votes count!

    The time for a substantial, positive peaceful change is quickly a ‘coming . . . .

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

  • Edward Freeman

    September 24, 2020 at 2:02 am

    What a joke these idiots running Florida are. They care nothing at all about the law, the will of the vast majority of Florida voters, or even basic fairness. The one, the only thing that animates them is that they and they alone retain power. Their actions force all who are paying attention to conclude that Gaetz, Moody, Patronis, Scott, and DeSantis are horrible people who should not be allowed anywhere near the good people of Florida. They should be locked up for the rest of their lives so they don’t further spread their craven, noxious moral vacancy.

  • Sonja Fitch

    September 24, 2020 at 4:33 am

    Yep we here in Florida have been lied to used and abused for fascist like Gaetz, Mast, Scott, Marco and Duffus Desantis and Ashley Moody! These are racist sexist sociopaths! Vote Blue! Vote Democrat up and down ballot!

  • Edward Freeman

    September 24, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Matt Gaetz is in a titanic deathmatch with Rodger Stone for the Preeminent Cartoon Supervillain crown.

  • Ian

    September 24, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    Felons aren’t in limbo. If they complete all terms of their sentence, they regain the right to vote, unless they are murderers or sex offenders, according to Amendment 4. Any financial obligations included in their sentence were denoted in the sentencing document when they were sentenced. It’s their responsibility to keep up with that. They don’t know what they owe? Why not? It was part of their sentence. They don’t know what was in their sentence? Whose fault is that? If they don’t know what they owe, then it seems like they never intended to complete their sentence to begin with. Now someone else has to tell them what they owe, a second time? (The first time was when they were originally sentenced, btw, for those of you keeping score at home.)

    • Doug Chance

      September 25, 2020 at 5:33 pm

      I don’t know off the top of my head how much it would take to payoff my mortgage. But guess what?! The lender will be happy to let me know.

      This may surprise you, but many felons do not have the resources to pay off their fines and costs in one lump sum. Who best to tell them the remaining balance?

  • Jared J.

    September 24, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    We can’t expect Matt GAYetz to be honest about voting he’s not even being honest about his need for booze and men.

    Gaetz could care less about voting rights. His only desire, besides the above-mentioned need for men and alcohol, is his obsessive need to please the orange butch lesbian, Trump.

    Evidently, felons in Florida never repay their debts even when 65% + of the state’s voters believe they have. Meanwhile, Republicans have made an absolute mockery of our law, our courts, and our Constitution. Trump’s crooked friends-and there are many–get pardons, and protesters get prison.

    Only an idiot would vote for Republicans given all they’ve done to destroy our country with their Vote all those sorry GOP asses out this November!

  • Gail M.

    September 24, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    So, Trump can order his cult devotees to vote twice and no Republicans accuse him of breaking the law.

    Bloomberg offers to help people pay their fines in order for them to be able to vote, and Ashley Moody, Barr, and the Justice Dept. begin investigating? Wow, that’s balanced.

    Corruption runs deep throughout our nation and state. I’m hoping there’s a Democrat preparing to challenge Moody for her post because he or she has my vote already. And I’m hoping Nikki Fried runs against lying Desantis in 2022.

    Those of us who still believe in democracy and the Constitution absolutely have to vote in this and the next election.

  • John Lentini

    September 26, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    CATCH 22.

    Florida: You have to pay your fines and court costs before you can register to vote.
    Returning felon: Okay, no problem. How much do I owe?
    Florida: There is no way to find that out.

  • Susan Koch

    October 1, 2020 at 8:41 am

    “Force” or “Farce” ?

Comments are closed.


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