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Voting rights activist pardon put on hold

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 5:24 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The man who wrote and passed the constitutional amendment giving felons the right to vote asked the governor and Clemency Board for a full pardon from an 18-year-old cocaine conviction Wednesday, but he will have to wait a little longer.

Desmond Meade was in his early 30′s when he was convicted of possessing cocaine.

Since then, he has graduated from law school and lead a successful effort to restore nonviolent felons' voting rights.

On Wednesday, he was before the Clemency Board asking for a full pardon.

“The man who is here right now in front of you all is not that same man,” said Meade.

Immediately, there were questions.

“Was the first criminal offense you were charged and convicted of was that a court Marshall in 1990?” asked Governor Ron DeSantis.

“Yes sir. On drugs and trying to get money to satisfy a drug habit,” responded Meade.

Then, CFO Jimmy Patronis wanted to know about domestic violence.

There were no details in the file.

“I’d like to hear something from a brother if that’s possible,” said Patronis.

But Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried urged a “yes” vote

“The fact you got an amendment written into our constitution has shown that you are somebody who is an exemplary citizen,” said Fried.

But it wasn’t to be, yet.

“I think that this military court marshal, I’d like to get a little more information on that,” said DeSantis.

Despite Wednesday’s roadblock, Meade said he’s not going to leave the state and he’s going to keep doing what he’s doing.

Meade called the delay a system failure, not retribution for his voting work.

“It’s very arbitrary. You can have someone who hasn’t done half of the things that I’ve done since turning my life around, that can get it, and then someone like me would appear and you would think its a no brainer,” said Meade.

Meade was able to register to vote after passing Amendment 4, but he wants to use his law degree and can’t until the state wipes the slate clean.

In addition to not being able to practice law, Desmond Meade also can’t serve on a jury or run for public office until his rights are restored.

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