Rights Restoration Ballot Initiative Workshop

Speaker: Desmond Meade

Location: Gifford Community Center

Date: May 22, 2017

By Heather Mitts

A few of the Young Dems, including myself, attended a workshop on a Voters Rights Restoration this past Monday evening at the Gifford Community Center. It was arranged and hosted by Dr. Brown and Dr. Elizabeth Jackson from the NAACP of Indian River. We had the pleasure of hearing Desmond Meade share his stories and expert knowledge on the topic of restoring voting rights.

Desmond has been at the heart of this grassroots effort since 2006, when he joined the Florida Voters Rights Coalition. He shared his personal story about how he became involved and worked his way from the bottom up. His struggle and determination to be better is what lead him to this line of work. This ban has directly affected Desmond’s life and kept him from practicing law, even though he has paid his debt to society.

The workshop proved to be a valuable resource of information. Most Floridians are not even aware of the felon disenfranchisement that takes place in our state.

Florida is one of three states (Kentucky and Iowa are the other states) in the US that has a lifetime voting ban if you are a convicted felon.

The only way to restore your voting rights in Florida is through the clemency process which can take at least 15+ years after your completion of sentence. That is a long time to wait to just to vote, hold office, or serve on a jury.

If you are not familiar with this ballot initiative, it is an amendment to the Florida Constitution that would restore voters right to convicted felons once they have satisfied the terms of their sentencing. The law would not apply to murderers or sexual offenders.

Here are the facts:

  • 1.68 million people have had their voting rights stripped due to a felony conviction.
  • Of those 1.68 million people, only 33% percent of them are black. This issue sees no color.
  • Last year there were 170,000 felony convictions in our state alone. Less than 25% of those convictions go to prison.

Door to Door Canvassing

I believe in second chances. I also believe that if you have completed the terms of your sentence, you deserve your voter’s rights reinstated. If you want to support this cause and help with door to door canvassing, we are meeting this Sunday at 3:30pm at Dodgertown Elementary for a quick training session. We will start knocking on doors at 4pm sharp. Here are the event details.

If you are interested, please contact Megan Hoots, FYDIR Chair, at ydchair@democratsofindianriver.org.

More information on the Florida Rights Restoration movement: