On a muggy 90-degree day in 2013, Virginia Atkins traveled to Florida’s state capitol building in Tallahassee to ask Gov. Rick Scott for her voting rights back. Dressed conservatively in a black blouse, blue dress with a palm tree print and thick, horn-rimmed glasses, the 44-year-old waited nearly three hours before a clerk called her number: 36. Atkins, accompanied by her adult daughter, approached the podium and timidly greeted the governor. “It’s been 10 years since these charges,” she began, referring to a 2001 conviction for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. “I’ve served my time. I’m working. I’m a grandmamma. I’m going to be a grandmamma to twins.” Atkins smiled and touched her daughter’s belly. “I work every day,” she continued. “I’m active in the community. I stay out of trouble.” She paused and bit her lower lip, seeming to swallow her tears. Scott asked why she did it. “I was protecting my daughter at the time,” Atkins said, explaining an incident involving a woman spitting on and slapping her 13-year-old daughter, Kashandra Nixon.
Nixon, now 32, told the governor she was a different person back then – bad temper, impulsive. “I just feel like it’s all my fault, and if I could just take that from her and put it all on me, I will,” Nixon said.
After a couple questions about Atkins’ job with the Florida Department of Management Services, Scott put down his glasses.
“First, thanks for your work for the state,” the governor said. “At this point, I don’t feel comfortable giving your restoration of civil rights, but congratulations on your work and congratulations on your daughter.”