Oct 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Florida voting activist: Restoring felon rights "has caught on like a wildfire"

Desmond Meade, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, said at an Axios virtual event on Tuesday that Florida's ballot initiative restoring voting rights to 1.4 million has inspired a movement across the country, even in Republican-led states like Iowa.

The big picture: Meade, a former felon who rebuilt his life and graduated from law school after a drug-related conviction, helped lead the fight to pass Amendment 4 in Florida in 2018 — the largest single expansion of voting rights in the U.S. in half a century.

  • Soon after the ballot initiative, however, Florida's GOP-led legislature passed a law requiring felons to pay off all outstanding court debts before they can vote.
  • Meade argued that even though barriers to voting still exist and only 67,000 former felons have registered for the 2020 election, he still views Amendment 4 as a massive moment.

What he's saying: "At a time when the country was so divided, we were able to actually win something powerful through love. Not through hate or fear, but rather through love," Meade told Axios' Sara Goo.

  • "We showed the country that love can in fact win. We tore down that Jim Crow barrier that’s been in place for over 150 years. And even though we have a governor and a legislature that's throwing these obstacles in our way, it does not remove the fact that American citizens no longer have to grovel at the feet of any politician, begging for the right to vote."
  • "This thing has caught on like a wildfire. All across this country, people are really standing up. Because America is a nation of second chances. And it's showing up right now in a major way."

Go deeper: Read Axios' deep dive on race and voting in America

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