Felon Who Led Voting Rights Movement Gets Civil Rights Restored

Desmond Meade, a Florida activist who led a statewide initiative to restore former felons’ right to vote, recently had his civil rights restored under part of a new state clemency program. Meade, who leads the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and was convicted of felonies related to drugs and firearm offenses, announced recently that he can now engage in civil activities, such as running for office, serving on a jury, and being officially recognized as a lawyer by the state of Florida. (Meade graduated from Florida International University College of law with a law degree.) 

Meade was the leader of the 2018 movement to enact a voter-approved amendment to Florida’s constitution that would restore felons’ voting rights after their sentences were completed except for individuals with murder or sex crime felonies. Amendment 4 was passed into law in 2018 and restored the voting rights of over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions—a historic victory for voting right activists not only in Florida, but nationwide. In fact, the passing of Amendment 4 represented one of the largest expansions of voting rights in the United States in 50 years. However, to fully have voting rights restored, all felons must complete any financial obligations, such as paying any outstanding fines. Activists have argued this requirement poses challenges for minorities and other felons with limited financial resources.  

How Did Amendment 4 Change Florida’s Voting Rights?

Passed in 2018, Amendment 4 allows individuals with felony convictions—except those convicted of murder or a sexual  offense—to automatically have their voting rights restored after their sentence is completed. Before this amendment, individuals with prior felonies in Florida were not allowed to have their voting rights restored unless it was granted by a state board. 

In fact, prior to the amendment passing, Florida was one of four states in which felons had to have their voting rights individually restored. With the new law, the Executive Clemency Board will automatically restore the rights of felons who have finished their sentences. 

DeSantis’ New Amendments to Florida’s Clemency Process Is Expected to Expedite the Restoration of Civil Rights for Felons

Meade’s restoration of civil rights comes as a result of major adjustments to the state’s clemency process enacted in March. DeSantis made these changes due to his belief that felons who have had their voting rights restored should also be entitled to other civil rights. 

The changes made by DeSantis removed the minimum five-year waiting period felons had to complete to apply to have their rights restored. The new adjustments automatically restore the right for prior felons who have completed their sentence and paid outstanding court debts to hold office and serve on a jury. Activists have argued this requirement poses challenges for minorities and other felons with limited financial resources and significant financial hurdles. 

Contact a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney for Assistance Having Your Rights Restored 

If you have been convicted of a felony in Florida and are looking to have your rights restored, it’s essential to secure legal counsel from a trusted criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney can conduct a thorough investigation of your situation, collect the evidence needed to support your case, and fight for your rights in court. 

At The Umansky Law Firm, our attorneys are dedicated to helping clients who have faced felony convictions restore their rights. Our team is committed to fighting for the rights of individuals who have been victims of prejudice and discrepancies in the criminal justice system. To schedule a free consultation, call (407) 228-3838 or complete an online contact form for a free consultation.