NewFM members celebrate Voting Restoration Amendment certification

Leaders credit the tireless work of volunteers and the public’s strong support of second chances for putting the measure on the ballot this November

Miami, Orlando & Jacksonville – With the help of a committed grassroots effort, Floridians across the Sunshine State signed and submitted more than 1.1 million petitions and put the Second Chances Voting Restoration Amendment on the November ballot. 

“Through the hard work of Florida voters and unwavering dedication of a truly grassroots movement, we have reached a historic milestone and have officially placed the Second Chances Voting Restoration Amendment on the ballot,” said Desmond Meade, Chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy and spokesperson for Second Chances Florida Campaign. “Voters took matters in their own hands to ensure that their fellow Floridians, family members, and friends who’ve made past mistakes, served their time and paid their debts to society are given a second chance and the opportunity to earn back their ability to vote.”

New Florida Majority staff and members celebrated with calls, texts and emails to each all those who had helped make this diverse grassroots effort a reality.

“I believe the Voting Restoration Amendment making it on the 2018 ballot is indicative of the fact that Floridians regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs,  or political affiliation believe in second chances,” said North Florida Lead Organizer Devin Coleman, himself a returning citizen. “I’m overwhelmed by the commitment of all those involved and hopeful for a future in which Florida’s returning citizens are granted a voice in the political process.”

NewFM volunteer April Roberts has a very personal connection to the effort. Her husband is a returning citizen and knows how his life could change for the better if he and others were able to vote. She credited volunteers for their tireless dedication to reach out to everyone from neighbors and strangers for signatures.

“The credit for this victory goes to the working people. The grassroots movers and shakers that got on buses to get petitions signed. That knocked on every door in their community making sure that  their neighbors knew about this issue and signed a petition. The victory goes to the everyday people that dared to dream of a better Florida.”

Roberts said the hundreds of conversations that she engaged in while gathering signatures gave her a deeper perspective as to what we all share as Floridians.  

“I learned out the field that no matter what a persons color or background is we all are affected by this issue,” said Roberts. “I am so elated that Floridians have taken an unyielding stand for forgiveness and now we can offer a real shot at a Second Chance”

NewFM volunteers in South Florida like Deborah Carter and Michelle Davis were excited to hear the news and to see that the efforts of so many that gathered signatures at homes, meetings and public events all year long.

“Some people did not believe this could make it to the ballot or that it could pass,” said Davis, who collected 865 petitions. “I am thrilled about the news of the measure making it to the ballot.”

“I am thrilled that it will make it to the ballot in November and that our work was not in vain,” said Carter, a resident of Liberty City who collected 701 petitions.

Renette Jean-Louis, who herself collected 941 petitions, agreed.

“It feels great,” said Jean-Louis. “Everyone deserves a second chance on everything. There were some people against us, but at the same time a lot of people very supportive of the work we were doing”

Florida has the most restrictive policies in the nation with respect to limiting the ability to vote for citizens who have paid their debts to society. It is one of only four states with a lifetime ban on voting. Current law outlines a long and difficult process to restore an individual’s ability vote.

Allapattah, Miami resident Elizabeth San Martin said that she is looking forward to getting back to knocking on doors and engaging all voters in all languages to vote YES on 4 and ensure that Florida’s law supports second chances.  

“Reaching out to youth is very important, they are our future and no one is speaking at their level,” said San Martin, who collected over 1000 petitions. “On the ground we need to break walls. We need to move more towards education”

To learn more about the Second Chances Campaign, please visit www.SecondChancesFL.org.

NewFM staffers Renee Mowatt and Daniel Garcia interviewed members and contributed to this report. 

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