Second Chances organizers rally around restoring voting rights
Desmond Meade, Norris Henderson and Marcus Bullock speak at Second Chances Convening.


Supporters rallied this weekend in Orlando behind a ballot initiative to restore voting rights for ex-felons.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition held its Second Chances Convening Thursday through Saturday at the Rosen Centre Hotel, where hundreds of supporters gathered around Amendment 4, a measure set to appear on the November ballot statewide.

“Through the hard work of Florida voters and the unwavering dedication of a truly grassroots movement, we will reach a historic milestone in November,” said Neil Volz, political director for the Coalition.

“These are our family members, friends and neighbors that have paid their full debt to society and earned the opportunity to participate in and give back to their communities.”

Amendment 4 if passed would automatically restore voting rights for convicted felons once they finish their sentences completely, including restitution and probation. Those convicted of murder and sex offenses would be excluded.

Of course, as most convicted felons today don’t have their rights restored, the campaign behind the measure faces an unusual obstacle in getting 60 percent of voters to pass a measure that helps only those who cannot vote.

Florida Rights Restoration Coalition President Desmond Meade on Friday stressed to attendees the importance of organizing and getting people behind the measure.

The event Saturday held a Youth Caucus session, one of many sessions held at the conference on educating the public on the constitutional amendments finer points while organizing a broad coalition that crosses partisan and demographic lines.

Jhody Polk, the organizer behind the Say YES to Second Chances campaign, spoke on a panel about how personal stories can compel voters. She’s a paralegal today, but as a youth served a sentence for grand theft.

“Vote for Amendment 4 because behind that is me, and the possibilities of so many people,” she said at the conference.

But the event also touched on issues besides the ballot measure, with speakers also discussing getting voter IDs for returning citizens.

Conference organizers say the Second Chances campaign already has $8 million raised. Meade expressed optimism at the event’s start.

“With the support of people from all walks of life and backgrounds, we have become a shining example of what can happen when we come together along the lines of humanity,” Meade said.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • RogerClegg

    August 12, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    Vote against the proposal. If you’re not willing to follow the law yourself, then you should not have a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote. The right to vote should be restored only when the person has served his sentence and shown he has turned over a new leaf by going some period of time without committing a new crime. We can’t automatically assume that someone has turned over a new leaf when they walk out of prison, because unfortunately most felons will be walking back in.

    • Amir Talai

      August 15, 2018 at 2:08 pm

      We can assume they’ve turned over a new leaf, because they are out of prison. That is what is meant by innocent until proven guilty. Once you serve your sentence, you are a free person, and assuming future guilt because of past actions is unAmerican. If you are guilty of a crime, you are punished for a set amount of time, after which you are allowed to return to society. Not partial society, society. Freedom = freedom. These are not even violent felons. These are people who got felonies for stuff like tampering with an odometer or a lobster trap. YES ON FOUR.

    • Amir Talai

      August 15, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      Under the proposal, convicted felons who have completed all terms of their sentences, including probation and restitution, would receive the right to vote without formal hearings that are currently required. People who are convicted of sex crimes or murder would be excluded.

      Florida is one of three states, and by far the largest, that permanently disenfranchise felons. The others are Kentucky and Virginia.

Comments are closed.


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