Florida non-violent felons are fighting for the right to vote again in the state of Florida but need 700,000 signatures by February to try and get the amendment on the ballot. They will not be discouraged if their efforts fail though. Medical marijuana did not make it on the ballot the first time but eventually did and passed. They are optimistic they can persevere too. How many of the released non-violent felons in the state of Florida were originally incarcerated for marijuana related crime?
Desmond Meade of Orlando has traveled from the Panhandle to Miami, all for the cause of restoring voting rights to 1.6 million non-violent ex-felons such as himself. But there is so much more to do.
“I’ve put over 150,000 miles on my car,” said Meade, the head of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. “Whether it’s the rural parts of the state or the urban centers, the message is the same. … Second chances. That’s what it’s all about.”
Meade, a former addict convicted on drug and firearm charges in 2001 who later earned a law degree, successfully gathered more than 70,000 verified signatures for his petition to place an amendment to the Florida constitution, which then triggered a review by the state Supreme Court.
But despite the successful hearing, in which the court allowed the process to proceed, Meade and his group still have a momentous challenge ahead.
They need about 700,000 more signatures by Feb. 1 in order to get the amendment on the ballot next year – and even then, it still needs more than 60 percent of the vote to become law.
“It’s very tough when you look at history,” said Darryl Paulson, emeritus professor of government at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg. “It’s going to take [an] educational process, and it depends how much money the restoration movement can raise.”
Paulson estimated there’s probably “no better than a 50/50 chance” the measure gets the required number of signatures by 2018.
“But even if not, then you try again,” he said. “Many amendments to the Florida constitution don’t succeed the first time and did the second time,” including the medical marijuana amendment that failed in 2014 and passed in 2016.
Meade, however, was extremely optimistic. Sitting outside Chef Eddie’s restaurant in Orlando on Tuesday, he eagerly showed a video of boxes and boxes of envelopes that have been mailed to the coalition, so many that they haven’t even counted them yet.