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Desmond Meade, who has fought on behalf of restoring voting rights to those who have fully completed their sentences for a felony crime, has finally had his own civil rights restored. Mr. Meade can now take the bar exam to become an attorney, as well as run for office.

Previous laws limited rights for people who had fully completed their felony sentences. The law mandated a five-year waiting period for running for office and serving as a member of a jury. 

The original law was put into effect by former Florida governor Rick Scott. The law immediately affected a large swath of those who had fully completed their sentences for a felony crime, which includes paying all fines and fees associated with courts and imprisonment.

Mr. Meade has long been an advocate for restoring the rights of people who have fully completed their sentences for a felony. He is the founder of Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which supports such measures.

desmond meade

Mr. Meade has also worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to make the changes. In fact, in 2018, ? of Florida voters supported an amendment to the state constitution which restored voting rights to those who have fully completed their felony sentences. 

The change to the Florida constitution is considered the most expansive civil rights update to voting since the 1960s. 

Hurdles cleared

Meanwhile, Mr. Meade is looking forward to having his own rights reinstated. As he said, “Another chapter in the journey. Another, I guess, example of perseverance. When I didn’t get it when I first wanted it — you know, it shows that you’ve just got to keep pushing.”

Mr. Meade had previously sought a pardon for his felony crime, which was denied several times by current Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Meanwhile Mr. Meade’s current opportunity comes through a state-government approval of the clemency process — that people who have fully completed their sentences for a felony can apply to have their rights restored. The governor approved the measure for all rights except owning a firearm. 

“It’s not a pardon, but it’s definitely a step in restoration of my civil rights. Definitely removes some hurdles from me. I can apply to the Florida Bar now. I can get a house. I can run for office if I want to run for office. This is good.”

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...