Local restaurant holds celebration ahead of Amendment 4 taking effect

By: Alicia Turner | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 7, 2019

TALLAHASSEE. Fla, (WCTV) – Dozens gathered at Leola’s Crab Shack on Monday to celebrate ahead of Amendment 4 going into effect.

Many former felons attending the luncheon said Tuesday will be a day they’ll never forget.

Eric Mckinnon is one of them. He owns Leola's and is also a felon. He says he pays taxes, helps in the community and hasn't been able to vote for years.

Amendment 4 will go into effect the same day that the 46th governor of Florida will be sworn in.

"At the top of the Parkway he's being sworn in to go to the mansion. At the bottom of the Parkway we're signing up to be able to send somebody to the White House,” said local pastor Greg James.

James' call to action isn't far from becoming a reality, as millions gain a voice they say was lost when they became felons.

When asked, "When was the last time you were able to vote?” answers ranged from 1992 to 2004. While the years among them varied, the level of excitement didn't.

"To make things change and to maintain these communities, we have to know the power of our vote and the power of our voice," said Rory Newkirk, a former felon.

Amendment 4 passed in November by an overwhelming majority, making it the largest restoration of rights since the women's suffrage.

"It’s been well over 100 or 150 years where this process wasn't available to felons in Florida," said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley.

Earley explained the historic moment is likely to produce large crowds, but says they're ready.

"Frankly, we're ready for a big crowd, and I’ve got staff and volunteers ready to get people registered to get on the rolls,” Mark said.

Some of those planning to register to vote on Tuesday say they're going to be at the elections office as soon as the doors open.

Oceo Harris said, “'I’m going to be there at 9 a.m."

"I’m walking. No, actually, I'm in good health, I’m running all the way to the polls, and I’m running for everyone that can't," said Gwenever Smith.

"I’m going to be there, and I’m going to fill out that paper with a big smile on my face," Eric said.

A smile Eric Mckinnon described as being reflective of everything it took to get to this moment.

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