Ex-felons vote in Florida after overcoming prison - and the GOP
NBC News byElizabeth Janowski and Jane C. Timm
Nov. 2, 2019
Desmond Meade can't vote in Orlando's mayoral contest. But he'll be in the city on Saturday anyway, cheering as hundreds of recently reinfranchised ex-felons and their families head to the polls together.
Meade, the organizer who lead a campaign to amend Florida's Constitution and restore voting rights to an estimated 1.4 million people with felony convictions, called the party "a celebration of expanding our democracy." He has three felony convictions of his own, acquired during years of drug addiction. Just the thought of voting again, he said, "brings tears to my eyes."
But after the festivities, he has to return to work.
Since it was overwhelming passed by voters last year, the constitutional amendment Meade and his group, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, fought for has spurred legislation and litigation over differences of opinion in how to interpret and implement it. The FRRC has renewed its educational efforts, kicking off a a 23-city bus tour Saturday to register eligible ex-felons and raise awareness about a fund to help people pay off fines and fees associated with their convictions — an issue at the heart of the latest legal battle voting rights advocates have waged over restrictions lawmakers put in place that could still keep thousands from accessing the ballot box.
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