In 2004, Desmond Meade, while serving a 15-year prison sentence for a drug offense in Florida, got a break. An appeals court returned his conviction to the original trial bench, allowing him to plead guilty to a lesser charge and get out of prison in three years, most of which he had already served. But his freedom came with a price, something that didn’t quite register with him at the time: as part of his plea agreement with prosecutors, Meade agreed to give up his civil rights: the right to vote, to serve on a jury and to run for office. “At the time, when I first accepted the plea deal, I didn’t understand the consequences,” Meade says. Fourteen years and a pair of college and law degrees later, Meade, now 50, still can’t vote; his application to regain his civil rights was rejected in 2011. The reason: a new Florida law that requires felons like him to wait for seven years before they could apply for rights restoration.
Home to nearly a quarter of the nation’s disenfranchised felons, Florida has become a battleground in a national debate over felony disenfranchisement laws. With lawmakers deeply divided over the issue, Meade says he wants the state’s voters to change the system when they head to the polls on Nov. 6.
He’s promoting a ballot initiative that would amend the state’s constitution, restoring the voting rights of all felons in Florida (except those convicted of murder and sexual assault) after they’ve completed the terms of their sentence.
Full Article: Florida Felon Takes Lead in Fight to Restore Voting Rights.