Civil rights activist Desmond Meade – the man who has been fighting for the voting rights of felons in Florida – has finally won a prolonged battle. The Florida voting icon’s civil rights have been restored, allowing him to run for office, serve on a jury and take the bar exam.
Meade received the news on Saturday during his live broadcast on Twitter. According to Durham Herald Sun, the news was given to him by his family, who presented him with a letter from the Florida Clemency Board announcing that his civil rights have officially been restored.
“I feel great, another chapter in the journey,” he said after receiving the news. “It shows that you just got to keep pushing,” he added.
Desmond Meade Civil Rights Restored "Surprise" https://t.co/eADpy7Jjvv
— Desmond Meade (@desmondmeade) October 9, 2021
Meade is the founder, president, and executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which raises voice for the civil rights of citizens coming back to society after completing prison terms.
The right activist of Orlando, Meade, led a grassroots effort for many years that got success in 2018 with the statewide passage of Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution, restoring voting rights for as many as 1.4 million Florida felons, including him.
However, despite approval from over two-thirds of state voters, the terms of restoration were the subject of debate, with GOP state leadership saying that returning citizens must pay all fees and fines before they could return to the voting booth.
What a moment for me and thousands of other citizens voting for the 1st time . https://t.co/UoDghp1CJq
— Desmond Meade (@desmondmeade) October 28, 2020
Meade, who was convicted of drug and firearms offenses and served a jail term, already has the right to vote and had cast his right in the 2020 presidential elections.
Governor DeSantis Denied Right In March
In March 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, for the second time denied a pardon for Meade, saying it was because of a serious allegation against him from the U.S. Army. DeSantis said Meade could go through the regular process to apply to have his civil rights restored.
On the very day, DeSantis and the Cabinet, sitting as the Clemency Board, adopted an “automatic process” to speed up the restoration of rights for felons who have completed jail terms or other offenses, including paying fines and fees. The move also abolished the five-year waiting period before felons can apply for restoration.
According to new rules, the felons with outstanding legal financial obligations can still apply to have their civil rights restored, able to go before the clemency board, which can waive court-ordered fees and fines.
Meade’s rights were restored with that new rights restoration process that the FRRC pushed for. But the rights restoration rule does not apply to those people who are convicted of murder or felony sex crimes.
“It’s not a pardon, but it’s definitely a step,” Meade said in the video. “I can apply to the Florida Bar now, I can get a house, I can run for office if I wanted to run for office.”
According to WUSF News, Meade was made a 2021 MacArthur Fellow in September. He was also granted a sum of $625,000 as a “Genius grant”. Meade has said the money will be used to pay off law school loans and to continue his work for people convicted of felonies.