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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

Go deeper

Voter suppression then and now

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Barry Lewis/Getty Images 

From its start, the United States gave citizens the right to vote — as long as they were white men who owned property. From counting a slave as 3/5 of a white man to the creation of the Electoral College, there's a through-line of barriers that extends to today based on racial politics.

Why it matters: 150 years after the 15th Amendment — and 55 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act — people of color still face systemic obstacles to voting.

Axios-Ipsos poll: Voters of color worry about militias, arrests

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.6% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Fears that armed militias, police or COVID-19 await them at the polls are disproportionately shaping how Americans of color think about in-person voting, according to an Ipsos poll for Axios.

Why it matters: Participation by voters of color could decide whether President Trump or Joe Biden wins, and whether Democrats take control of both chambers of Congress.

Introducing "Hard Truths"

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Logo: Miranda Leung/Axios. Photos: Bettmann, Stephen F. Somerstein/Getty Images

Hard Truths is an Axios series exploring the impact of race in America.

Why it matters: If you’re white or rich, it’s easy to believe that racism is something that ended years ago. But the hard truth is: That’s not supported by facts.

  • Our society, institutions and culture are still filled with barriers that shut out people because of the color of their skin, the origins of where they were born and other factors they can’t control.
  • That didn’t just happen a long time ago. It’s happening right now.

Driving the news: We recognize most newsrooms, including ours, pay too much attention to news of the day, and less time examining what's below the surface.

  • We were challenged on this by an Axios employee, who asked during the nationwide protests this summer: "Why does the news media spend all its time focusing just on events like this and then move on, instead of explaining systemic racism?"

Between the lines: We know that some of you will be skeptical.

  • We promise that Hard Truths — like all Axios coverage — will be grounded in facts, clinical and clear-eyed, so you get the full picture.

What’s next: Each month, we'll examine a fresh topic. Our project begins on Saturday with voting. In coming months, we’ll explore education, housing, technology, sports, health care and more. You’ll find this coverage:

  • In special Saturday bonus editions of Axios AM.
  • On Axios.com in a new "Deep Dive" format.
  • On a special edition of our "Axios Today" podcast that will accompany each new topic.
  • On "Axios on HBO."

The bottom line: Our goal is to equip you with facts showing the full picture of race in America — a topic long overdue for this nation and its leaders to confront.

Go deeper: Our first installment, on race and voting in America.