By Jeremy Ring
Can you imagine facing a debt that you could never pay off — one that never goes away, regardless of how many times you try to pay?
Well, unfortunately, for hundreds of thousands of nonviolent felons across Florida, this is their reality.
When nonviolent offenders break the law, they’re rightly forced to pay their debt to society through years in jail, countless dollars worth of fines and penalties, and the social burden of being labeled a felon for the rest of their lives.
They broke the law. They paid the price. That should be the end of it, right?
Not in Florida.
In our state, nonviolent offenders who have paid their debt to society are stripped of their voting rights, and it’s an onerous procedure to get those rights restored.
Here’s the worst part: Florida’s voter disenfranchisement isn’t just poor policy, it also disproportionately affects communities of color and the poor, many of whom received a felony just for minor offenses.
As a candidate for Florida chief financial officer, and as a Floridian and American concerned with the cause of economic equality and equity, I believe this is a disgrace — and it needs to stop.
If I have the honor of being elected as chief financial officer next year, I would have an active role as a member of the Cabinet in advocating for policy initiatives that would seek to correct this fundamental injustice in our current state laws. And if the Florida Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative [Initiative #14-01] also gets on the ballot in the November 2018 election, we will get a head start in bending that proverbial arc back toward justice.
Together, we can ensure that all Floridians who have paid their debt to society are treated fairly. We can ensure that our great state sets a positive example to the rest of the country — and to the world — in combating one of the most fundamental threats to the health of our democracy.
Jeremy Ring, a former state senator from Parkland, is a candidate for Florida chief financial officer.