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In Historic Win, Florida Restores Voting Rights to Returning Citizens

In an historic mid-term election, Florida residents voted in favor of state constitutional Amendment 4, which will automatically restore voting rights to 1.4 million people with felony convictions on their record. The ballot initiative received support from at least 60 percent of Florida voters – the needed amount to amend the state’s constitution. Advancement Project’s national office has been heavily engaged in dismantling disenfranchising policies alongside partners, New Florida Majority, SEIU, and Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC).

“This is an historic moment for Florida and our country. Florida voters have spoken and extended the right to vote to citizens who have been shut out,” said Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director, Advancement Project national office. “We are proud to have been supporting the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition since its beginning. Their hard work is not in vain. Now, we must work to get people registered with ease. It is only fair that Returning Citizens have a say in how their schools, cities, states and country are run. This is a big victory; now we must ensure there is a ripple effect across the country.”

On the heels of the election, Advancement Project national office released Democracy Disappeared: How Florida Silences the Black Vote through Felony Disenfranchisement, a report detailing the impact felony disenfranchisement has on Black communities in Florida. The analysis shows a relationship between the number of Returning Citizens permanently disenfranchised under current Florida law and poor socio-economic conditions in a neighborhood. Through the stories of Returning Citizens and data, Democracy Disappeared shows how challenging circumstances are when people return home.

“Today a lot of sunshine was brought to the state of Florida. We have created a more inclusive democracy which is good for all Floridians,” said Desmond Meade, Executive Director, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. “We are eternally grateful for the unprecedented support of Returning Citizens and their families, grassroots volunteers and long-time advocates. Today is a long way from that day that I stood in front of the railroad tracks ready to take my life.”

“I didn’t get here by myself. I, along with 1.4 million Floridians are eternally grateful for the support and motivation of Advancement Project national office staff who were on ground with us during this election season. Thank you for believing that this crazy dream could come true,” added Meade.

Advancement Project national office will continue to work with partners in Florida on the implementation of the amendment, in addition to getting the word out to the Returning Citizen community on their newfound re-enfranchisement.

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Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.

Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is a grassroots organization run by Returning Citizens (formerly convicted persons) dedicated to ending disenfranchisement against people with convictions and creating a more humane reentry system that will enhance successful reentry and increase public safety.

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