September 26, 2018
"Will Florida’s Ex-Felons Finally Regain the Right to Vote?"
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this New York Times magazine article, which is worth reading in full. Here is a taste:
In 2015, [Neil] Volz happened on a meeting at Florida Gulf Coast University, where a small group of students and community activists were listening to an African-American law-school graduate named Desmond Meade. He was talking about his years-long crusade to restore voting rights to people who had committed felonies, as he had. The issue affected Volz, who knew he was barred from voting, as is automatically the case in Florida for anyone with a felony conviction. Meade was president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, an organization founded by the Florida A.C.L.U. for former felons, or, as he and others prefer to call themselves, “returning citizens.” Meade was in the midst of trying to collect the 766,200 signatures required to place an initiative on the ballot to amend Florida’s Constitution, which denies former felons the right to vote. Volz stayed after the meeting to talk to Meade. “We chatted for a long time, and by the end, I wanted to help,” he said.
Across the country, more than six million people have lost the right to vote because of their criminal records. More than 1.5 million of them live in Florida, a higher number than in any other state. The proposed ballot initiative would automatically restore the right to vote to people with a felony conviction who have completed their sentences. (The initiative makes two exceptions: no voting rights for people convicted of murder or sex offenses.) At the beginning of this year, with the signatures gathered, the state certified the initiative, called Amendment 4, for the November ballot.
Like any change to Florida’s Constitution, Amendment 4 needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. In the summer of 2017, after Volz spent more than a year volunteering, Meade offered him the paid position of political director. He hoped that Volz, with his experience as a Republican operative, could help frame the restoration of voting rights in terms that appealed to a wide constituency — Republicans and independents as well as people of color and white liberals. “It’s everybody that can’t vote,” Meade likes to say. “I’m fighting just as hard, if not more, for that guy that wanted to vote for Donald Trump than a guy who wishes to vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.”
September 26, 2018 at 06:18 PM | Permalink