Florida Voting-Rights Activist to Speak at Coral City Elks Lodge

Florida is the largest of only three states that permanently bars citizens with felony convictions from voting in all cases except with approval through the clemency process. Mr. Desmond Meade, an attorney and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, will be speaking at the Coral City Elks Lodge, 1107 Whitehead St., on Saturday, May 27, at 4 p.m. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is a nonpartisan organization whose mission is to get Florida to join the approximately 40 states in the nation that automatically restore the voting rights of citizens with a felony conviction upon completion of their sentence. This event, hosted by the Coral City Elks Lodge, Women’s March Florida Keys, and Key West National Organization of Women (NOW), is free and open to the public. A special invitation is extended to citizens with felony convictions, and their friends and family.

Mr. Meade’s path to becoming an attorney and activist was an unusual one: It included addiction, homelessness, rehabilitation, and the criminal justice system — where he was sentenced and served several years in prison. Through these obstacles, he ultimately obtained his law degree from Florida International University, and is a leading voice among the growing and bipartisan choir to end Florida’s harsh restrictions on the voting rights of its citizenry.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Florida has the highest disenfranchisement rate in the country.” But statewide and local organizations — including the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the ACLU of the Florida Keys, the League of Women Voters, Florida Keys NOW, and the grassroots Women’s March of Florida – Florida Keys Chapter — intend to work in a nonpartisan, joint effort to change this.

A key step in this fight for a fair democracy was taken on April 20, when language for a constitutional amendment, the Voting Restoration Amendment, was approved by the Florida Supreme Court. This amendment would restore the voting rights of citizens with felony convictions across the state who have served their sentences, completed parole or probation, and paid restitution, excluding those convicted of murder or sexual offense. According to the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, an estimated 700,000 felons in Florida would have their voting rights restored upon passage of the amendment.

To bring this amendment to the state ballot in 2018, 766,200 signed petitions from registered Florida voters are required by February 1, 2018. With 75,000 verified petitions collected so far, Mr. Meade’s visit will mark the #SayYestoSecondChances campaign’s arrival in Key West.

Mr. Meade is a sought-after speaker who has made numerous appearances on radio and television, and has spoken before esteemed national and international organizations, including the United Nations, the White House, MSNBC, Democracy NOW, U.S. Congress, Al Jazeera, and recently, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Press, local individuals, and organizations interested in supporting this effort and attending a private reception with Mr. Meade on May 27 are invited to contact Lizzy Hoke at (216) 402-4061 or

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