Desmond Meade is still waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to call him back after more than a month. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Voting Restoration Amendment sometime in April. Meade, director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, argued in favor of the amendment and challenged the current re-enfranchisement process on March 6. The Voting Restoration Amendment is a citizens’ initiative amendment proposed by Floridians for a Fair Democracy that would restore voting rights to nonviolent felons upon completion of their sentences, including parole and probation. The Supreme Court will decide whether the amendment will be on the ballot in the 2018 election.
To Meade, the fight for voting rights is personal. “I had a drug problem and got in trouble a lot with the law, but eventually I was convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon,” Meade said. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but released after three.
After being homeless and attempting suicide, Meade set off to attend law school in 2010. Though a graduate of Florida International University’s College of Law, he still cannot practice because he must have his rights restored in order to take the Florida Bar exam.
According to The Sentencing Project, an organization that conducts extensive research on criminal justice issues, Florida accounts for 27 percent of disenfranchised people nationally. Gainesville resident and activist Julie Thaler said she noticed the magnitude of this issue when she went door-to-door in Palatka registering people to vote for the 2016 presidential election.