After one of my colleagues met with you in early 2017, Daily Kos has excitedly supported the Second Chances campaign to vastly expand voting access in Florida. Can you tell us more about that campaign, what's at stake, and some of the challenges you've faced?
With there being over 1.4 million Floridians who have completely paid their debts to society but are still denied access to the ballot box, Second Chances is poised to enfranchise the largest number of people since the Women’s Suffrage movement resulted in women getting the right to vote. Amendment 4 is also poised to fix Florida’s broken system and create a more inclusive democracy that will benefit everyone.
We have an opportunity to build upon what the civil rights movement started by expanding democracy to people like me.
The biggest challenges that we’ve faced are simply around getting the word out to educated Florida voters and finding the resources to do so. I have found that when we share how Florida’s system is broken, who returning citizens actually are, and the impact felon disenfranchisement has on the economy, more often than not we are able to gain support for the Amendment.
What are a couple of your proudest moments working on this campaign?
Two of the proudest moments of this campaign were getting the Florida Supreme Court to review our proposed amendment solely on the backs of an organic grassroots movement that collected over 80,000 petitions in over 10 congressional districts and then collecting over one-third of the one million petitions needed to get the amendment on the ballot. Those were moments when I saw a diversity of volunteers that reflected people from all walks of life, coming together around a singular cause. These volunteers organized along the lines of humanity, love, and inclusion instead of fear and divisive rhetoric.
At a time when voting access is under constant attack and getting more and more restrictive, your campaign to expand the vote has wide bipartisan support, with the majority of Florida voters in favor of the measure. What can the rest of the country learn from this campaign?
There are times when we must resist the urge to paint ourselves and others in a rigid box. When we break down walls, we allow ourselves more opportunity to connect with each other along the lines of humanity. We really do have more in common with each other than the things that tend to divide us.
Desmond, you yourself are a returning citizen. This campaign is deeply personal. How are you feeling, on the verge of a huge win? How are you seeing other returning citizens energized by Second Chances' work on Amendment 4?
I am experiencing an indescribable mix of various emotions rights now. Mostly nervousness because this will be a historic and transformative win. Historic because we will re-enfranchise the largest number of American citizens since the women’s suffrage movement gave women the right to vote, and transformative because of the unprecedented way we forged a path to victory by engaging people from all walks of life.
Returning citizens are showing a renewed and vibrant sense of hope. Across the state I am seeing a renewed energy to get people to vote. I am fielding a ton of calls and instant messages from returning citizens throughout the state who are so grateful for the opportunity to become a complete citizen again.
The Daily Kos community has signed petitions, made phone calls, and knocked on doors to support this particular campaign. But the work is much more than we can do in short volunteer shifts. How else can we support Second Chances? What else do you need to keep doing the important work you do?
There are a lot of voters in Florida who still have not received our message about Florida’s broken clemency system. There are areas in Florida that we have not been able to canvass or call into due to lack of resources. We need to get our message of redemption into those areas through television and radio ads.
I am asking the more active members in Florida to #Bring10toWin. Have a conversation about Second Chances with 10 registered voters and get them to the polls.
For those who may prefer a lighter load, I am asking them to #Bring4for4. Take 4 voters to the polls to vote YES on Amendment 4.
Thank you, Desmond.
The Second Chances campaign simply doesn't have enough resources to meet their voter outreach goals. Please contribute $3 to Floridians for a Fair Democracy and help them win a second chance for Florida's returning citizens.
No matter where in the country you live, you can help Second Chances with voter outreach from your own home. Sign up here to make phone calls to Florida voters about why it's important to vote YES on Amendment 4.
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