Florida activists try to restore voting rights for non-violent felons

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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
August 2, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- A proposed constitutional amendment to automatically restore the voting rights of non-violent felons is getting a boost.

The Florida Supreme Court has already approved the felons rights' amendment for the 2018 ballot. It must now gather more than 700,000 signatures to move forward.

The day the court heard arguments, organizer Desmond Meade was proud that all of the more than 68,000 signed petitions had been gathered by volunteers.

"To actually collect enough signatures to get us here - I don't think it's ever been done before," Meade said back in March.

Since the March hearing, the petition count has actually decreased.

The official count, as of Wednesday afternoon, now shows only 67,000 valid signatures. But, the American Civil Liberties plans to help change that.

ACLU is putting $5 million behind the effort.

The Governor and Cabinet personally review about 400 rights restoration requests a year.

There’s only been one time in the nearly 50 years that petitions have been part of the Constitution that paid-petition gatherers were not used and the amendment was successful. This happened in 1976, when Governor Ruben Askew used the power of his office to make it happen.

Now, organizers will have the muscle and at least $5 million from the ACLU to try and change what has made Florida one of the most difficult states for rights restoration.

Organizers have until February to collect more than 766,000 verified signatures to make the November ballot.

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