When You Do Your Time The Punishment Doesn’t End
We learn from a young age, that when we do wrong, we are punished. But after the punishment, the infraction should be forgiven and not held against you. This isn’t the case most of the time. Nearly 1.5 million people in Florida are permanently excluded from voting because of a prior felony conviction.
Florida is one of only four states that still has a system that excludes so many people from voting. These are our family members, friends, and neighbors who have already repaid their debts to society. Now is the time to restore the ability to vote to Floridians who have earned the opportunity to participate in and give back to their communities.
But a pair of bipartisan Florida lawmakers is looking to create an alternative to restore the rights of former inmates. Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Neptune Beach) and Rep. Kim Daniels (D-Jacksonville) are sponsoring a measure to provide a judicial alternative to Florida’s Executive Clemency process. Under the bill, the petitioner would still have to notify the State Attorney, who can still object to the petition.
“Vietnam veterans, who came back from the war dealing with certain issues, maybe they’re not on drugs, they’re an alcoholic, and they commit a crime,” Byrd said. “They have lived 40 years crime free life. They’re productive members of society. They can’t vote. They can’t own a gun. And, when they call me, and ask me about the process, and I have to tell them that, ‘yes, you can apply through the OEC, and yes, there is a backlog of over a decade, and maybe someday, you’ll get a hearing and get your rights restored.’ I’ve had them tell me, ‘I’ll die before I get that opportunity. So, I’m not even going to apply. That’s wrong, and we can do better.”
Rep. Kim Daniels (D-Jacksonville) says she too understands the value of the restoration of all rights. “I must be a voice for second chances because I am a recipient of it,” she said. I’m a person who used to be on the streets in this city, committing crimes, doing drugs, and because I got a second chance, now I’m a member of the House of Representatives.”
People from all parties and walks of life support this amendment, including law enforcement, religious groups, and people working to build stronger communities across Florida. Thousands of grassroots volunteers are already laying the groundwork for an energetic and strategic campaign to restore the ability to vote to nearly 1.5 million Floridians. Sign the petition NOW.
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