Voting rights activists to petition this weekend at Jacksonville Jazz Fest


Music fans who flock to the Jacksonville Jazz Festival this weekend can expect to be asked to sign a petition supported by voting rights activists around Florida.

The Florida Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative was an initiated constitutional amendment that fell short of the required signatures needed to make it onto the Florida ballot this November.

The measure would have restored the right to vote for most state residents with past felony convictions. Rights would be restored upon completion of their sentences (excepting those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense).

“Of the approximately 6 million disfranchised citizens in the United States, one-quarter are Floridians,” says Desmond Meade, the president of FRRC. The group is mobilizing with petition drives statewide, pointing out that the state’s disfranchisement rate is the highest in the country, with more than 10 percent of the state’s voting age population, and 23 percent of Florida African-Americans unable to cast a ballot.

The initiative must collect a minimum of 683,149 valid signaturesand is close, with about 8,000 more names needed to reach the threshold.

Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected]


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