Florida jus­tices ad­vance vot­ing-rights plan for ex-felons.

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Steven Le­mon­gello Staff writer

The move­ment led by Des­mond Meade of Or­lando to re­store vot­ing rights to non-vi­o­lent ex-felons is one step closer to fruition.

The Florida Supreme Cour­tap­proved Thurs­day the lan­guage of a pro­posed state bal­lot ini­tia­tive to re­store those rights, paving the way for its place­ment on the Novem­ber 2018 bal­lot.

But Meade’s group, the Florida Rights Restora­tion Coali­tion, still needs to collect hundreds of thou­sands of more sig­na­tures if they hope to ac­tu­ally bring the mea­sure be­fore vot­ers.

“I think it’s a great day in the his­tory of Florida,” Meade

said. “I’m very ex­cited and grate­ful. And what re­ally high­lights it is the fact that [the rul­ing] is unan­i­mous. It speaks to the tes­ta­ment of the hard­work of Florid­i­ans across the state.”

The court ruled that the pro­posed ini­tia­tive meets all the re­quire­ments needed to get on the bal­lot, in­clud­ing “a log­i­cal and nat­u­ral one­ness of pur­pose” that doesn’t sub­stan­tially al­ter any gov­ern­ment func­tions, and sim­ple and clear word­ing that would in­form vot­ers on what it­would do.

The court also found that the fi­nan­cial re­view re­quested by state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Pam Bondi, who other­wise had no com­ment on the ini­tia­tive, “clearly and un­am­bigu­ously states that there are likely in­creased costs associated with the in­flux of felons reg­is­ter­ing to vote, but that the ex­act amount of cost in­crease can­not be de­ter­mined.”

Florida is one of just three states that per­ma­nently bars ex-felons from vot­ing un­less they get clemency.

Meade, who couldn’t vote for his wife in her run for state Leg­is­la­ture, said his group col­lected 75,000 sig­na­tures in or­der to en­sure the court hear­ing.

Now, his group needs to gather about 700,000 to get the ini­tia­tive on the bal­lot.

“I’m very op­ti­mistic about that,” Meade said. “Any grass-roots ef­fort takes time to build mo­men­tum. … I think more and more cit­i­zens are re­al­iz­ing Florida’s poli­cies are out­dated and un­fair.”

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