Fresh Off The Houston Debate Stage, Sen. Amy Klobuchar Talks Voting Rights In Miami

Sep 15, 2019

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar opened her time at the latest 2020 Democratic presidential debates with the phrase,  “Houston, we have a problem.” 

Grilling President Trump for leading the country “like a game show” and saying he would rather “lie than lead,” she admitted to not being the loudest candidate for president in the last debate rounds. 

“But I think we’ve already got that in The White House,” she said. 

Just after debating in Houston, Klobuchar sat down with Miami local election reform activists, pledging to prioritize access to the ballot box for historically disenfranchised communities, convicted felons and focus on election security and ethics in political spending. 

We have the highest voter turnout in Minnesota in the nation, nearly every year,” Klobuchar said. “And we had the highest one in the last election in 2018. That is simply because we’ve made it easier for people to vote.” 

The Senator spoke with leaders from the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, election reform coalitions and groups mostly made-up of people with criminal records who want to politically-empower those in the criminal justice system. 

She also slammed Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature for moving forward with what she called "an Amendment 4 poll tax." 

“I know that people were watching all across the country when you passed Amendment 4, and I know how frustrating it has been since then. I was here during that election - in what I consider not a great election outcome, that was the one bright spot,” she said.  

Over 5 million people statewide approved the constitutional amendment during the November 2018 midterm elections, which restored voting rights to most convicted felons but still requires them to pay all fines or fees before being able to cast a ballot. 

“When people have served their sentences and have completed probation as the amendment said, there is absolutely no reason they should not be allowed to vote. This is a racial issue and it’s a criminal justice issue.” 

Former Miami Shores police officer Ed Haynes is chairman of the criminal justice reform group Circle of Politics. He was also part of the Hunger 9 -- men who camped out and launched a 21-day hunger strike in March to combat gun-violence in Miami-Dade County.

He said that he wants to educate former convicted felons, and anyone in the criminal justice system, on how to use their voice to mobilize. 

“The Amendment 4 situation impacted and created an additional around 1.5 million new voters to the roll,” Haynes said. “The shenanigans that have been going on in Tallahassee to impact that - that created a subtraction in that number, to about 700,000.” 

He said those 700,000 felons with their voting rights restored can still change the outcome of the presidential 2020 elections. Florida elections, he said, are often decided on thin margins. 

“We choose to look at the 700,000 that are still viable - that have no issues, no restitution,” he said. “Of the elections that have been won, that are controversial, if I’m not mistaken, none of them have been decided by more than 100,000 votes.”