Jacksonville Organizations Push For Signatures Deadline for Voting Restoration Ballot Initiative Draws Near

New Florida Majority leads weekend effort to gather signatures for state-wide voting rights campaign initiative before mid-December

Jacksonville, FL — A coalition of community leaders and organizations, led New Florida Majority, launched a final push this weekend that they hope will help get an important voting initiative on the ballot next year.

On Saturday, November 11th, more than a dozen people representing multiple community organizations showed up at NewFM’s offices on Moncrief Road for its final “Second Chance Saturday” neighborhood canvas event. The volunteers are increasing number of community leaders committed to gathering enough petitions that would give voters next year an opportunity to restore voting rights to the state’s more than 1.6 million felons who have completed their sentences. 

Lead Organizer for North Florida NewFM, Devin Coleman shared, “Our community friends are as determined as the staff to push to the end and get the job done.” He told the volunteers, “We’re going to do this!”.

The canvass event, which was followed by a community BBQ, was one of a couple of NewFM led weekend events, including a private faith breakfast with local pastors, clergy and faith-based leaders in partnership with State Senator Audrey Gibson, State Representative Tracie Davis and Councilmen Garrett Dennis. Other organizations participated included: Duval County Democratic Black Caucus, Democratic Women’s Information Network and For Our Future Fund.

The Days of Action are just one of dozens that were being done across the state in support of the statewide Say Yes to Second Chances campaign. The campaign looks to end Florida’s lengthy clemency process and automatically restore the right to vote to those who have served their time for nonviolent offenses.

Currently, Florida’s constitution permanently strips the right to vote and other civil rights, including serving on a jury, running for public office and sitting for the state bar exam to people convicted of a felony crime. (According to the Orlando Sentinel, felony crimes in Florida, half of which don’t result in prison time, include such non-violent offenses as driving with a suspended license, disturbing turtle eggs in nests or trespassing on a construction site.)

In order to get their rights restored, ex-offenders have to wait 5-7 years to petition a clemency board consisting of the governor, the attorney general and two Cabinet members. It’s a process that has been criticized as being onerous, overly subjective and ridiculously lengthy. The board only meets four times a year and currently has a backlog of more than 10,000 cases.  

“It’s high time all Floridians take a stance on the state’s out-of-date laws on former felons and voting rights, wrote the editorial board of the Florida Times Union this past September. “When Floridians have paid their debt to society in every other way, the right to vote should follow as well.”