IN THE NEWS
Committed to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions.
We’re making a difference! Check out these news articles from 2022 profiling our work.
We’re making a difference! Check out these news articles from 2022 profiling our work.
We’re making a difference! Check out these news articles from 2022 profiling our work.
Restoring voting rights: Hear solutions from this former state senator and advocate for former felons (Returning Citizens)
December 15, 2022 – Shortly after law enforcement officers started arresting 20 people around the state of Florida for voting illegally in the 2020 election, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the arrests were the result of an investigation by his newly formed election police.
December 8, 2022 – Disenfranchising people with felony convictions was a tactic by white supremacists after the Civil War to prevent Black men from influencing elections. Why are 48 U.S. states still doing it?
Why did voter turnout drop in 2022 versus 2020? Strict voting laws, voter arrests, say voting rights advocates
December 5, 2022 – Will Forrester wants to vote, but he’s not sure he’s eligible because of a previous felony conviction — even after Florida voters approved an amendment to allow him and hundreds of thousands of others disenfranchised the right to vote.
November 24, 2022 – The executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition was homeless, addicted to crack, and suicidal. Now, he has met the president, been one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, and won a MacArthur grant.
November 22, 2022 – The midterms were the first election in Florida’s history in which registered Republicans outpaced Democrats at the voting booth. Were DeSantis’ public arrests to blame?
November 22, 2022 – Charges against a man accused by Governor Ron DeSantis of committing voter fraud were dropped by prosecutors on Monday.
November 21, 2022 – Marquis Mckenzie Sr. is an example of not allowing your bad past to determine your future. The 32-year-old dropped out of school when he was only 15 years old and began hanging out with older people who were “living the street life.”
November 17, 2022 – When law enforcement officers began arresting 20 people charged with illegally voting in the 2020 election, there was a common theme among those accused: they didn’t understand why they were being arrested.
November 16, 2022 – Even though years have passed since some states restored voting rights to parolees, flawed implementation led to confusion that prevented some from voting in the midterm election last week, activists said at a virtual event.
November 11, 2022 – After being incarcerated and charged with a felony at 16, Marquis Mckenzie Sr. was hopeless about his future career prospects. But the 32-year-old now brings in about $150,000 a year as a business owner and community organizer in Orlando, Florida.
November 9, 2022 – How did the state of Florida allow 20 felons (Returning Citizens) to get voter-registration cards if they were clearly ineligible to get their rights restored?
November 7, 2022 – Gov. Ron DeSantis publicly touted the arrests of about 20 people he said registered and voted illegally in 2020. But months later, at least two of the people arrested are still on Florida’s voter rolls.
November 4, 2022 – DeSantis made a spectacle of arresting voters with felony convictions. Now, some eligible voters are opting out of midterms even beyond Florida.
Four Years After Florida Voted To Restore Voting Rights For People Convicted Of A Felony, An Estimated 1 Million Still Can’t Vote In The Midterm Elections
November 4, 2022 – “If I go vote, [Gov. Ron] DeSantis will have me arrested,” said one person with a felony conviction who’s listed as an active voter on a state website.
November 3, 2022 – It took 15 years behind hardened walls to make 54-year-old Sue Allen appreciate the world outside of her window. She struggled on the streets of East Mims, selling drugs in the often-forgotten rural Brevard community, her life’s vision colored by the smoke of a crack pipe and going in and out of prison before conquering her addiction.
November 3, 2022 – Leroy Whitaker Jr. knows the value of a vote. Whitaker, a former felon (Returning Citizen), waited nearly two decades to cast one for the first time—which he did thanks to Florida’s 2018 ballot initiative that restored the right vote to felons (Returning Citizens) not convicted of murder or sex crimes.
November 3, 2022 – “The way that we drafted the law was to say that if you were going to be arrested for this, the state had to prove that you did it willingly,” said Jeff Brandes.
Most states allow at least some Americans with felony convictions to vote. See the laws in every state.
November 3, 2022 – Voting rights for Americans with felony convictions have been at least partially restored in most states, but there are many felons (Returnig Citizens) who are still facing obstacles to exercising their right to vote.
November 1, 2022 – Critics say the arrest of 20 former felons (Returning Citizens) for voting could have a chilling effect on turnout this year. In 2018, the voters of the state of Florida overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4, restoring the right to vote for more than 1.4 million former felons (Returning Citizens).
October 31, 2022 – A recent study estimated that 4.6 million Americans will not be able to vote in this year’s midterm elections due to a current or previous felony conviction. The study also found that African Americans of voting age are over three times more likely to be disenfranchised due to a felony than non-African Americans – about one out of every 19 citizens in the U.S.
October 31, 2022 – The upcoming 2022 midterm election brings a feeling of unease to Debra Bennett-Austin. She is among more than a million Floridians who had their voting rights restored in 2018 when nearly two-thirds of voters approved a constitutional amendment that gives people with felony convictions access to the ballot after completing the terms of their sentence.
October 31, 2022 – A week after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the arrests of 20 people for alleged voter fraud, his administration quietly made a change that some say could help the state go after more people.
October 31, 2022 – An estimated 5.2 million voting-ag adults cannot cast a ballot because they have a felony conviction, according to a 2020 report from the Sentencing Project.
October 28, 2022 – We speak with Florida voting rights activist Desmond Meade about how Republicans like Governor Ron DeSantis are attempting to scare formerly incarcerated people with felony convictions from voting.
October 28, 2022 – Robert Simpson, a Pahokee resident charged with voter fraud, holds his 2022 voter information card on Aug. 30 in Pahokee, Florida.
Some felons (Returning Citizens) who are allowed to vote are staying away from the polls because they're afraid of being arrested, Florida lawmaker says
October 28, 2022 – Florida restored voting rights for convicted felons (Returning Citizens) in 2018, but confusion over election laws has led some to consider sitting out this election due to a fear of being re-incarcerated, according to a Democratic lawmaker and attorney in the state.
October 26, 2022 – Tony Patterson was in his front yard in Tampa when state police arrested him and walked him to their squad car, accusing him of voter fraud and practically apologizing as they did.
October 23, 2022 – Jim interviews the deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition in the aftermath this week of newly released videos from arrests of 20 people in Florida back in August for alleged voter fraud in 2020.
October 22, 2022 – A South Florida judge on Friday dropped charges against a Miami man swept up in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push to crack down on voter fraud, signaling an early legal loss for the administration’s highly touted elections investigation unit..
October 22, 2022 – Desmond Meade and LaTosha Brown join Tiffany Cross to discuss the newly released video of the arrests of Florida citizens for voter fraud, despite the fact that some were issued voter ID cards by the state.
October 22, 2022 -The arresting police officers sounded almost apologetic as they detained the suspect in front of his home in Tampa, Florida..
October 22, 2022 – One of the 20 people arrested with fanfare under an election fraud program launched by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had his case dismissed Friday by a Miami judge, but the governor plans to appeal the ruling.
October 22, 2022 – One of the 20 people arrested by Florida’s new elections police force this summer had his charges dismissed Friday, in the first case to be resolved since Gov. Ron DeSantis launched his aggressive voter-fraud initiative.
October 21, 2022 – The accused was facing up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines and fees. A Florida man had his election fraud charges dismissed on Friday, making him the first of 20 people who Gov. Ron DeSantis announced had been charged with voter fraud in August, to beat his case.
October 19, 2022 – A crackdown in August on voter fraud announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to have ensnared former felons (Returning Citizens) who were puzzled that they were accused of violating voting laws.
Confusion follows the Florida arrests of convicted felons (Returning Citizens) accused of voter fraud
October 19, 2022 – A report by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald illustrates the confusion that has ensued after the arrests. The deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition calls the system “broken.”
October 19, 2022 – Newly released police bodycam footage shows that three of the 20 people who were arrested in Florida for allegedly voting illegally in the 2020 election appeared to be surprised that they had done anything wrong.
October 10, 2022 – Several people charged with illegal voting are taking their cases to court. Michelle Stribling declined to talk with WESH 2 Investigates at her home because she said she was still too upset by her arrest on two felony election law charges of registering and voting by absentee ballot in the 2020 general election.
October 10, 2022 – The vast majority of Florida residents who have been arrested by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new election crimes unit are Black, a review by The Palm Beach Post has found.
October 4, 2022 – Has Amendment 4 been implemented as to the wishes of the voters? Or does it create more hoops for ex-felons (Returning Citizens) to jump through before they have their voting rights restored?
September 28, 2022 – Registering to vote and casting one’s ballot is an essential part of full citizenship. But for some Americans, the right to vote is beyond reach due to felony disenfranchisement.
September 18, 2022 – If things had gone the way they were originally intended, Angel Sanchez would still be in jail, with a release date in 2028. Instead, Sanchez, aged 40, was sworn in Friday to the Washington DC Bar which oversees all professional lawyers practicing in the nation’s capital.
September 15, 2022 – The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) recently held a convention to mark its 10th anniversary. In 2018, the group successfully led an initiative to pass Amendment 4, restoring voting rights for over 1.4 million Floridians with felony convictions, except for murder and sexual offenses.
September 10, 2022 – The state of Florida charged a group of formerly imprisoned people with voter fraud despite the government telling them they could vote. Neil Volz, Deputy Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition joined American Voices with Alicia Menendez to discuss the state’s confusing rules when it comes to restoring voting rights to people who have served time after a felony conviction.
September 9, 2022 – After much debate in 2018, Floridians decided to amend the state’s constitution so certain felons (Returning Citizens) — once out of prison — could regain the right to vote.
September 6, 2022 – An Orange County woman accused of voter fraud pleaded not guilty. Michelle Stribling is a felon (Returning Citizen) released from prison in 2004.
Voter fraud arrests reveal ‘broken system’ for screening Florida felons (Returning Citizens), advocates say
September 4, 2022 – Gov. Ron DeSantis’ election fraud show of force is casting light on a broken system for restoring the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions and bringing flawed criminal cases against people who mistakenly thought they could vote, defense lawyers and advocates say.
September 3, 2022 – They blamed what they describe as a confusing process that makes it difficult for either the suspects or election officials to tell whether they’re eligible to vote.
September 1, 2022 – There’s been a lot of finger-pointing about who’s to blame after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the arrests of 20 formerly convicted Floridians for alleged voter fraud. But will those charges hold up in court?
September 1, 2022 – A Miami man, one of 20 people arrested by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ election crimes and security task force in mid-August, is speaking to Local 10 News, saying he was led to believe that he was legally allowed to vote when he, in fact, wasn’t.
August 31, 2022 – The state’s top election enforcement officials stood in a Broward County courtroom on Aug. 18 in front of a row of green-uniformed sheriff’s deputies to send the message: If you cast a vote in Florida and you’re not eligible to do it, “we’re coming,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
August 31, 2022 – Gov. Ron DeSantis wants felons (Returning Citizens) convicted of murder and sexual offenses to follow the proper steps to earn back their right to vote. But he says good luck on getting his approval.
Will the governor’s claims of illegal voting hurt felon’s (Returning Citizens') chances of rights restoration
August 31, 2022 – A Florida elections chief absolves counties responsible for felons (Returning Citizens) accused of voting illegally.
August 30, 2022 -Gov. Ron DeSantis is defending voter fraud charges brought by his administration that have drawn increasing criticism, including from the Republican lawmaker who drafted legislation at the center of the debate.
August 28, 2022 – When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the first arrests of the new office of elections crimes and security, it turned out to be 20 felons (Returning Citizens) arrested for voting illegally.
August 27, 2022 – The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) held a conference in celebration of their 10-year anniversary Saturday morning but there was one hot topic: the recent arrests of 20 people accused of voter fraud.
‘Florida is arresting returning citizens for voting:’ Florida Rights Restoration Coalition holds Orange County convention
August 27, 2022 – Florida voters approved Amendment 4 in 2018 to restore voting rights to nearly 1.4 million Floridian former felons (Returning Citizens), according to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.
August 27, 2022 – Many of the individuals recently charged by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new election crimes unit told investigators they had no idea that with their felony convictions, they were unable to vote when they cast ballots in the 2020 election.
‘That’s what made me think that I was eligible:’ 2 accused of voter fraud in Florida say they were allowed to register
August 27, 2022 – Two people accused of voting illegally in the 2020 election told News 6 they believed they were eligible to vote.
August 26, 2022 – DeSantis’ office has ignored questions about local elections office sending voting cards to ex-felons (Returning Citizens) before their arrests last week.
August 24, 2022 – Eight ex-felons (Returning Citizens) from South Florida face the possibility of being jailed again for years after being arrested last week on voter fraud charges ahead of the Aug. 23 primaries.
August 24, 2022 – Neil Volz, Deputy Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, talks about voter fraud prosecutions in Florida and the importance of voting restoration.
Ron DeSantis Touted the Arrest of 20 People for Illegally Voting. Some Say They Were Told They Were Eligible.
August 23, 2022 – The messy rollout of a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to felons (Returning Citizens) is now creating more felony crimes.
In Attack on Voting Rights, DeSantis’s Election Police Arrest 20 Former Felons (Returning Citizens) for Voting in Florida
August 22, 2022 – Ahead of Tuesday’s primary election in Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security made its first arrests of people it alleged engaged in voter fraud in the 2020 election.
'I had no plans on committing voter fraud': Felon (Returning Citizen) arrested for voting says he didn't know he was ineligible
August 19, 2022 – Currently, it’s up to voters to know whether they’re eligible. There is no system that flags those who register to vote who are ineligible because of felonies.
DeSantis touted their arrest. But ex-felons (Returning Citizens) say they weren’t told they couldn’t vote.
August 18, 2022 – DeSantis said 20 people across the state were arrested for voter fraud. Those arrested worry what it’ll do to their livelihood.
August 18, 2022 – FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the first arrests made by the state’s new elections police force Thursday: Twenty people previously incarcerated for murder or sexual assault who he said had illegally voted in the 2020 election.
August 18, 2022 – The 17 arrests announced on Thursday were the first by a new office dedicated to pursuing election crimes. The suspects were said to be former felons (Returning Citizens) who had voted illegally.
SWFL residents, organizations advocate for removing re-entry barriers for ex-felons (Returning Citizens)
August 17, 2022 – Ariel Maldonado, a North Fort Myers resident, says he’s struggling to move forward with his life due to him owing $49,000 in court fines and fees.
August 17, 2022 – Joshua Underwood talks about how he helped the drive to restore voting rights to returning citizens and what getting his rights back means to him.
August 16, 2022 – For two days this week, a South Florida nonprofit plans to help local leaders guide residents up the economic ladder to join the middle class and tackle issues like rising health care costs, unaffordable housing and criminal justice reform.
August 4, 2022 – Marquis McKenzie, the son of a chef and a corrections officer, was 15 years old on the day Florida prosecutors urged a judge to try him as an adult for armed robbery.
WESH 2 Investigates: Felon (Returning Citizen) voting rights group critical of recent illegal voting allegations
July 30, 2022 – The man who fought to restore felon (Returning Citizen) voting rights is critical of recent arrests, and the state admits it does not have adequate resources to determine if some are not eligible to vote.
REFORM Alliance thanks Governor DeSantis, Senator Keith Perry for their work on bipartisan criminal justice reforms that go into effect tomorrow
June 30, 2022 – REFORM Alliance, the nonprofit organization founded by award-winning recording artist Meek Mill; Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin; entrepreneur and business mogul Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter; and other leaders across business, philanthropy, and entertainment, announced today that new reforms to the Sunshine State’s criminal justice system will go into effect Friday, July 1st.
June 30, 2022 – A first-of-its-kind event in Central Florida is designed to help inmates prepare for life after serving time. Orange County Corrections staff at the jail say 96% of Orange County inmates return to the community.
June 14, 2022 – For formerly incarcerated citizens of Miami-Dade County, finding a stable, well-paying job can be a real challenge. In fact it’s known that those who’ve served time in state or federal prison are five times more likely to experience unemployment and are 10 times more likely to be experience homelessness.
Orlando teams with voting advocate to roll out program that predicts who might get shot or shoot someone
June 13, 2022 – A group that led the charge to restore voting rights to most people convicted of felonies in Florida is poised to take on a new challenge: Gun violence.
June 8, 2022 – From behind bars to a community helper and successful business owner, an Orlando man is turning his life around and helping others do the same.
June 8, 2022 – A second chance is what released people seeking to reintegrate into society need. Miami-Dade County, in conjunction with felony support and employment management organizations, is hosting the 305 Second Chance Job and Resource Expo at the Downtown Miami Main Library on Friday, June 10 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
June 6, 2022 – Nearly 7 million people in Florida have a record. Every year, almost 1 million Americans are released from state and federal prison. This is an important moment — one of hope for a better life and a safer community.
May 26, 2022 – The city of Orlando is moving forward with a plan to combat violent crime. In January, the Orlando City Council approved $3 million from the American Rescue Plan toward reducing gun violence.
May 18, 2022 – A Florida State Attorney is partnering with Supervisors of Elections to reduce confusion amid Amendment 4, while curbing the potential for voter fraud.
May 8, 2022 – The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has announced the formation of a task force to defend former inmates against voter fraud charges. It follows the recent arrests of 10 former felons (Returning Citizens) who were registered or voted in violation of state law.
Convicted felons (Returning Citizens) in Florida want statewide database to determine voting eligibility
May 8, 2022 – A Central Florida group, run primarily by former convicted felons (Returning Citizens), wants a statewide database to determine voting eligibility.
May 7, 2022 – Florida Rights Restoration Coalition leader fears state’s bully tactics could prevent returning citizens from registering to vote this election season.
May 7, 2022 – The man who spearheaded a movement that resulted in convicted felons (Returning Citizens) getting their right to vote returned in Florida is demanding better record-keeping from state officials.
May 6, 2022 – A Florida advocacy group is launching an election integrity campaign in response to an increase in arrests for voter fraud that have been made in Alachua County and in surrounding areas.
May 5, 2022 – Many organizations creating housing options for individuals returning from incarceration are more focused on profits than rehabilitation, and it can have dire consequences.
April 28, 2022 – Florida authorities arrested a Black man while he was staying in a homeless shelter and charged him with voting illegally in a case tied to Republicans’ drive to root out election fraud.
April 27, 2022 – The Rockford branch of the NAACP hosting a conversation on voting rights restoration in Illinois prisons.
April 26, 2022 – Black males in Florida and across the nation face extraordinary challenges, from becoming targets of hate crimes to navigating a criminal justice system that can involve unfair policing practices…
April 22, 2022 – Desmond Meade overcame drug addiction, homelessness, and incarceration on a path to advocate for returning citizenship to the formerly incarcerated by removing/reducing barriers for fully participating in civic life.
April 21, 2022 – The Tampa City Council Monday directed city staff to draft an ordinance creating an incentive program for contractors that hire individuals recently released from prison.
April 19, 2022 – Desmond Meade, a nationally acclaimed voting rights activist based in Florida, can only remember two people who have disagreed with his push to restore voting rights for people with felony convictions.
April is the National Month of Hope National Month of Hope Founders Kick-Off the Hope Pass It On Campaign and Announce the HOPEE Award Recipients
April 11, 2022 – What does an author of Christian fiction, a sitting senator, a medical mobile unit, a television show, a formerly incarcerated social activist, a peace farm that teaches environmental awareness in Jamaica, an outreach that reaches the poor in Pakistan, and a publicist, have in common? You might say that they are all the same race or gender, and the answer would be no.
April 11, 2022 – Desmond Meade likes to say he doesn’t consider himself the best rights campaign organizer in his own family. That would be his wife Sheena Meade, he insists.
March 19, 2022 – As his national profile increases, Desmond Meade pushes for jobs, housing and dignity for formerly incarcerated people like himself.
March 11, 2022 – Desmond Meade explains his ongoing work succinctly: “We are an organization that is made up of people who are closest to the pain.”
February 25, 2022 – As an emerging journalist serving time at Everglades Correctional Institution in Miami, I spend most of my days following leads, conducting interviews and writing down details from the inside that most on the outside can’t — or don’t want to — understand.
February 24, 2022 – Standing in front of the Capitol building with hundreds of people listening, Tanaine Jenkins told her story about struggling to be a business owner.
February 18, 2022 – By now, you have probably heard of Florida’s Amendment 4, the constitutional amendment placed on Florida’s referendum ballot to restore civil rights for “returning citizens” or individuals who have had various interactions with the criminal justice system and lost their civil rights due to felony convictions.
February 16, 2022 – The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), along with hundreds of Florida citizens, are at the State Capitol today, Feb. 16th, for Advocacy Day 2022.
February 16, 2022 – The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition — with Executive Director Desmond Meade and hundreds of returning citizens in tow — spent Wednesday in Tallahassee to observe Returning Citizens Legislative Advocacy Day 2022.
Black Enterprise to Present Town Hall on Ending the Disenfranchisement of Black Lives and Bringing Equity to the Criminal Justice System
February 9, 2022 – The latest installment of the Economic Equity and Racial Justice Series, Feb. 10, focuses on the reintegration of ex-offenders into society and removing barriers to empowered citizenship.