Activist Desmond Meade has civil rights restored
Restorning Desmond Meade's rights was, in the end, a low-key affair. Image via AP.

Meade is the founder, president and executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

Civil rights activist Desmond Meade — the face and driving force behind efforts to force Florida to restore voting rights to felons — has now had his right to vote restored.

Meade found out the news Saturday while broadcasting live on Twitter. During the broadcast, Meade was surprised by his family, who presented him with a letter from the Florida Clemency Board announcing that his civil rights — including the rights to vote, run for office and serve on a jury — have officially been restored.

“I feel great, another chapter in the journey,” he said after finding out the news. “It shows that you just got to keep pushing.”

Meade is founder, president and executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which advocates for the civil rights of citizens reentering society after serving convictions.

Meade, of Orlando, led a grassroots effort for many years that culminated in 2018 with statewide passage of Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution, restoring voting rights for as many as 1.4 million Florida felons such as himself. Despite approval from over two-thirds of state voters, the terms of restoration were the subject of debate, with GOP state leadership concluding that returning citizens must pay all fees and fines before they could return to the voting booth.

Meade, who served prison time for drug and firearms offenses, already has the right to vote and did so in 2020.

Back in March, Gov. Ron DeSantis for the second time denied a pardon for Meade, saying it was because of Meade’s dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Army. DeSantis said Meade could go through the regular process to apply to have his civil rights restored.

On the same day, DeSantis and the Cabinet, sitting as the Clemency Board, adopted an “automatic process” to speed up the restoration of rights for felons who have completed all terms of their sentence, including paying fines and fees. The move also eliminated the five-year waiting period before felons can apply for restoration.

Under the new rules, indigent felons with outstanding legal financial obligations can still apply to have their civil rights restored, able to go before the clemency board, which can waive court-ordered fees and fines.

Meade’s rights were restored with that new rights restoration process that the FRRC pushed for. The rights restoration policy does not apply to people convicted of murder or felony sex crimes.

“It’s not a pardon, but its definitely a step,” Meade said in the video. “I can apply to the Florida Bar now, I can get a house, I can run for office if I wanted to run for office.”

Meade was named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow back in September. That came with a $625,000 “Genius grant” for recognition of his work. Meade has said the money will be used to pay off law school loans and to continue his work for people convicted of felonies.

He is a graduate of Florida International University College of Law.


Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


  • Alex

    October 10, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    Our nutcase AG Ashley Moody lost.

    Boo-hoo lil loser!

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