Slaying the “Giant of Past Mistakes”

All of us make mistakes. It is a part of being human, and something people from all walks of life have common.

Through the lens of history, we see that many of the world’s greatest leaders have experienced failure at one time or another. People like Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill all experienced failure before eventually succeeding. Similarly, when we look around today, we see amazing leaders like Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and J.K. Rowling who have also experienced failure, before ultimately succeeding.

In each of these cases, a person’s mistake did not keep them from living up to their God-given potential. In fact, in several cases, these leaders learned how to use their own failure as a tool for growth.

But what if that process of learning from our mistakes isn’t fully available to someone? What if forgiveness, redemption and restoration are blocked, or worse repelled by a system built on ignorance, fear and disenfranchisement?

Sadly, here in Florida, we know the answer to that question. In too many communities and too many people’s lives across the state, we see a loss of hope, restoration and potential because of Florida’s broken felon disenfranchisement policies.

How did this happen?

That is a timely question.

150 years ago this week, in the aftermath of the Civil War, Florida enshrined felon disenfranchisement into our state’s Constitution. The initial goal of the disenfranchisement policies had nothing to do with stopping crime. Rather, it had everything to do with stopping recently freed slaves from voting, and having their voices heard in their communities. In taking this step, previous Floridians created a cancer that continues to impact all of us to this day.

The cancer of Florida’s felon disenfranchisement policies permanently ban formerly convicted citizens from voting and fully engaging in the community. It is a cancer that primarily impacted African Americans in the aftermath of the Civil War, but one that and has grown to impact 1.68 million Floridians today – 70% of whom are not African American.

Despite the fact that this cancer still blocks millions of our fellow citizens from experiencing their God-given potential – and a full restoration from their past mistakes – there is hope. Namely Amendment 4. In the next six months, we as a state will have the power to rid Florida of this cancer, and follow our neighbor states like Texas, Georgia and South Carolina in allowing our citizens to work through their mistakes in a healthier way, a way that leads to stronger families, safer communities and improved lives.

People from all walks of life support Florida’s effort to ensure that the million-plus of our fellow citizens, family members, and friends who have made past mistakes, served their time, and paid their debts to society, are given the opportunity to earn back their eligibility to vote.

I hope that together we can beat this cancer in November by voting for Amendment 4, and see what happens when the giant of past mistakes is slayed – and hope, restoration and untapped potential returns to Florida communities and families.

Neil Volz

Neil Volz has more than 25 years of experience working as a public servant and community advocate. This includes work as the Chief of Staff for a Member of Congress and Staff Director for a full Congressional Committee Read More .....