Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Holds Three Day Convening
BY LOUIS C. WARD
ORLANDO - More than 300 people heard heartfelt testimonies from ex-felons trying to lead productive lives, and learned the status of the initiative to restore civil rights to 1.68 million ex-felons when they attended the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Convening July 20 through 22, 2017 at the Rosen Centre on International Drive in Orlando.
“Leading efforts to restore civil rights to over 1.5 million Floridians empower and civically re-engage local communities, and to reshape local, state, and national policies,” FRRC President Desmond Meade told the group ex-felons, civic and community leaders, and other supporters, “you remain the lifeblood of this movement. It is because of you, that we’re here. It is because of you, that we made history in the State of Florida by being the first grassroots campaign to trigger a legal review of an Amendment launched by a citizen’s initiative. It is because of you that people throughout the United States and other countries are paying attention to an organic, grassroots efforts that will transform this state.”
According to Desmond Meade, The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Convening furthers the movement in realizing “our vision of restoring the ability to vote to returning citizens who have repaid their debt to society; men and women from all walks of life who are citizens of this country.
“The issue is about fairness, and it transcends racial and political lines,” continued Meade. “America is a nation of second chances, and every citizen should have the ability to have their voices heard no matter how they may vote.”
The Florida Supreme Court approved the language of the Restoration of Voting Rights Amendment, and FRRC is working with other organizations to collect 700,000 petition signatures to get the Restoration of Voting Rights Amendment on the 2018 ballot for a vote. Professional petition gathers have been hired
Testimonies from individuals who were convicted of a crime were very inspiring. Melissa Miller, who was arrested at age 17 and lost her right to vote, has earned a BA and MA in gerontology. Angel Sanchez received a 30 - year prison term, but fought his case and got his sentence reduced to fifteen years. Angel received the Order of Pegasus Award from UCF at his 2017 graduation.
The three-day Convening included a FRRC panel discussion, Voting Restoration Amendment Campaign Overview, Floridians for a Fair Democracy Expert panel discussion, Messaging Presentation, and Messaging Breakout sessions.