Voting restoration amendment has 750,000 signatures
Desmond Meade, of Orlando, President, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and formerly incarcerated holds a number of petitions before a press conference Monday, August 1, 2016 about restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their prison sentences.

meade, desmond

The main backer of a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore some felons’ voting rights after they complete their sentences says his group now has collected over 750,000 signatures.

Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, also said on Wednesday that he’s confident the amendment will have a million signatures by year’s end.

“The needle is moving,” he said in a phone interview.

The Florida Division of Elections website showed as of the end of Wednesday that the citizen ballot initiative, known as “The Voting Restoration Amendment,” has 301,064 verified signatures.

Initiatives need 766,200 valid signatures for ballot placement. Signatures must be spread across Florida’s 27 congressional districts, with the total number due pegged to voter turnout in the most recent presidential election.

According to the ballot summary, “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.

“The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.”

Former state Senate Democratic Leaders Arthenia Joyner of Tampa and Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale separately filed the proposal with the Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to put it directly on the ballot.

During his term as Florida governor, then-Republican Charlie Crist worked with Cabinet members Alex Sink and Charles Bronson to push through restoration of rights for more than 150,000 non-violent felons. That process was quickly halted by Gov. Rick Scott when he took office in 2011.

Current law requires Florida convicts to wait years after they complete their sentences to apply for rights restoration through the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of Scott and members of the Cabinet.

• Additional reporting by Peter Schorsch •


Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Roger Clegg

    November 1, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    The right to vote should not be restored automatically but only after the felon has shown he has turned over a new leaf. After all the unfortunate fact is that most felons will be returning to prison.

    • Michelle

      November 2, 2017 at 7:44 am

      Rights would be automatically restored after probation is completed. You don’t complete probation if you return to prison. Vote Yes in 2018!!

    • Keith harris

      November 2, 2017 at 10:09 am

      Perhaps having rights restored would reduce recidivism knowing chances of success are more likely than not with greater opportunity of employment and education often denied because of their past.

    • Amanda

      November 2, 2017 at 10:38 am

      I wholeheartedly disagree. This suggestion completely undercuts the foundation of our justice system and is unlawful. Felons are given a sentence based on law and statutes. Once that sentence is served, they have paid their dues associated with their crime. There is no place for further ill-defined and subjective milestones. If serving one’s sentence isn’t enough, what is the point of our judicial system? This type of overreach, ostracizing, shame and penalization is precisely what makes re-entry into civilian life so difficult and a return to prison so common.

      • Barbata

        November 3, 2017 at 9:16 am

        Agree completely

    • DiAnn Kinsler

      November 3, 2017 at 1:54 am

      After a person has served their sentence I think that they should be able to vote. When they work, they are expected to pay taxes and do all the things that a citizen is responsible for. Why not be able to vote. I think that it is just another way to discriminate against a specific segment of the population.

  • Andy

    November 1, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    If you’ve done your time, then you’ve paid any debt owed to society, and of course you should have your voting rights restored automatically.

    If you pay taxes, you should get to vote. Every American should enjoy the right to vote, regardless of mistakes from the past. Its all about fairness and second chances.

    I totally support this amendment!

    • darius tripp

      November 4, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      the state of florida has always had an agender for not allowing ex-felons to vote .it is way past due for this nonsense to stop. restore the rights for those who have been disenfranchised for so long to vote as productive citizens and”s not about the past but about the future for one who has done his time and be allowed to vote.

  • Barbara

    November 3, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Agree completely

  • Ernie

    November 3, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Most of the people convicted of felonies feel that they are not a part of society. Taking their right to vote only makes them feel more so. I believe that we should not take away their right to vote at all. I think they should be encouraged to vote even while serving their sentence. Take away the right to own a gun if you want, but not the right to vote.

Comments are closed.


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