SOURCE: Orlando Sentinel
Desmond Meade spent years traveling to every corner of Florida gathering petition signatures to restore voting rights to former felons. On Tuesday, all he had to do to register to vote for the first time in decades was walk a few steps into the Orange County elections office.
“One hundred and fifty years of disenfranchisement, and this moment here marks the end of a system that excludes so many people for a lifetime,” Meade said, referring to the years after the Civil War when felons were first barred from voting during Reconstruction. “This is a moment for democracy.”
The right to vote was restored to more than 1.4 million former felons across the state Tuesday thanks to Amendment 4’s victory at the ballot box in November, leading to emotional scenes as tears flowed, confetti was thrown and U.S. flags were waved.
Despite concerns about Gov. Ron DeSantis’s comments last month that he wanted to wait to implement Amendment 4 until the Legislature convenes in March, advocates including the League of Women Voters and the ACLU of Florida declared that the measure was designed to be self-implementing and went into effect Tuesday no matter what the Legislature does.
County supervisors across the state, including Bill Cowles in Orange County, Mary Jane Arrington in Osceola, Alan Hays in Lake and Mike Ertel in Seminole, who will soon be in charge of implementing elections laws as DeSantis’s secretary of state, had said they would begin registering people immediately.