According to a Sunday Axios report, Jared Kushner, senior aide and son-in-law to President Donald J. Trump, said that ex-felons who are being released from jail are registering to vote as members of the GOP.
“I guess climate change is not their No. 1 issue,” he said according to the report, drawing a laugh from the crowd.
Kushner was speaking at a donor retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming when he made the claim. Axios said that it spoke with four people who attended the event, all of whom confirmed Kushner’s comments.
It’s welcome news for many in the GOP who were skeptical of the passage of last year’s First Step Act, under which 3,100 prisoners were released in July. Most of the felons had been convicted of drug offenses or weapons charges.
“Through his remarks, Kushner was trying to solidify Republican support for prison reform, 1 of 4 sources who attended the dinner said,” the report said. “He praised the policy, but also made a political argument for pushing criminal justice reform, citing recent statistics he said he’d seen of ex-felons registering as Republicans in Florida.”
According to a 2018 report in The Orlando Sentinel, historical data favors the Republican Party over the Democrat Party among ex-cons who register to vote, though most ex-felons will register as independents. Nearly 1.5 million ex-felons in Florida had their voting rights restored in late 2018.
“The historical evidence suggests – there’s not a lot of evidence, but it’s all we’ve got – that it slightly favors Republicans among people who’ve fit this model in the past in Florida,” Allison DeFoor told the paper. “Both parties have a real opportunity here. It’s kind of like a swearing-in [of new citizens] at a courthouse.”
The particular focus on the state of Florida, of course, is due to the fact that it is a swing state that plays a huge role in deciding federal elections, and the state is often decided by the narrowest of margins at the polls. Many Republicans worried that restoring voting rights would tip the scales in favor of the Democrats.
The Sentinel reported, though, that of the 1.4 million felons whose voting rights were restored, only about half will even register to vote, and far fewer than that will actually cast a ballot. The state expects to see about 230,000 newly-restored voters in 2020.
Alice Marie Johnson was the face of the First Step Act. She served 22 years of a life sentence for a non-violent drug crime – her first offense. She was released under the Act, and Trump, who worked with Kim Kardashian West on Johnson’s release, subsequently commuted her sentence.
“Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades. Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates,” the White House said when her sentence was commuted. “While this Administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance.”
Peter D'Abrosca is a freelance investigative reporter, author, and conservative political commentator.
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