The first time the Florida poet Devin Coleman voted was also his last. It was 2000, Gore v. Bush – when his was among millions of votes in play as the US Supreme Court called the winner and set the eventual arc of American affairs. Not long thereafter, Mr. Coleman was involved in a fight at a house party. His arrest led to eventual burglary charges, a prison sentence, and the revocation of his right to vote. Nearly two decades later, Coleman, now 39, is a father, published author, public speaker, and college graduate. But he says his disenfranchisement has shaded those successes.
“Everything in my life has been affected by my conviction – even after I paid my debt,” says the author of “Prisoner to Poet: Thoughts of an incarcerated soul.” “At this point, [reclaiming my full citizenship] has become a life’s journey for redemption.”
Perhaps aiding in that quest, Federal District Court Judge Mark Walker ruled Feb. 1 that 1.5 million Floridians’ right to vote has been affected by a “scheme” to bend the people’s collective will to political whim.
The judge found that the vote restoration process in Florida – executed by a Republican-led clemency board headed by Gov. Rick Scott – used arbitrary means to decide who is worthy. The state has until Feb. 12 to come up with remedies to the current constitutional violations.