by Heidi Harris
The Say YES to Second Chances initiative has entered the home stretch for inclusion on the 2018 ballot, and Floridians from all walks of life are mobilizing in support. Almost 800,000 signed petitions are required, proportionately represented statewide. The 3rd Congressional District, which includes Alachua County, must submit a total of 28,808 petitions. We have a good start, and the momentum is building as residents of Gainesville, Hawthorne, Palatka, Interlachen, Alachua and other communities are joining together to gather signatures.
One of our newest volunteers, Beverly from Hawthorne, has single-handedly collected over 250 signed petitions within a five day stretch. Jess and Christine, a dynamic husband and wife team in Gainesville, have gathered over 2,700. There are hundreds of volunteers, working in small teams or individually, gathering signatures at events of all sizes, in faith groups, in the work place, among family gatherings, and in multiple public places throughout their neighborhoods and townships. The human toll of disenfranchisement strikes deeply in the social framework of our communities, and the time is now to address and rectify this gross injustice.
According to The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit organization committed to criminal justice reform, Florida holds the highest percentage in the nation of people who cannot vote due to a felony conviction. 10.4 percent of Florida’s residents are disenfranchised from participating fully in their communities. Additionally, Florida grants clemency to only 8 percent of those individuals who seek re-instatement of their voting rights through a lengthy and onerous process before the state. This ranks far below Kentucky at 86 percent and Iowa at 93 percent, the only other states which impose a life-time ban on those convicted of felony charges.
The Voting Restoration Amendment will automatically restore the voting rights of Floridians with non-violent felony convictions after they have completed all terms of their sentencing, including parole or probation. We are all volunteers committed to getting this on the 2018 ballot. We need your help; please join our efforts!
We provide all you need to get started, including training. Contact Heidi Harris, firstname.lastname@example.org, now to get connected to the campaign here in Alachua and surrounding counties.
Join our Facebook group “Say Yes to Second Chances, Alachua County” to connect with others and stay informed of upcoming events: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FloridaVoterRightsRestoration/
The petition can be downloaded from: https://www.floridiansforafairdemocracy.com/sign-the-petition
To quickly come up to speed on the situation in Florida and become a more knowledgeable petitioner, take a look at the following: https://www.brennancenter.org/publication/florida-outlier-denying-voting-rights
And take a look back at the following three Iguana articles on this topic:
“Florida’s Voting Rights Restoration Amendment Raising awareness of the pervasiveness and horrible effects of disenfranchisement,” by Julie Thaler, April 2017
“Update: Voting Rights Restoration Initiative,” by Heidi Harris, May 2017
“Restoration of Civil Rights Project in Florida,” by Ben Silva, Gator Law ACLU, November 2015 D