Orlando's Desmond Meade honored by TIME magazine for his efforts to restore the voting rights of Florida felons

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PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett
TIME Magazine released its annual list of "The 100 Most Influential People in The World," and Desmond Meade, the Orlando-based executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, was recognized for his efforts to restore the voting rights of former felons.

The list recognizes activism, innovation and achievement in the world's most influential individuals.



Meade was an integral part in the 2018 passage of Amendment 4, an initiative which restored voting rights to over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions. It was the single largest expansion of voting rights in the U.S. in half a century and brought an end to 150 years of a Jim Crow-era law in Florida.

Meade
was honored by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams for his inspirational rise from homelessness to the presidency of the FRRC. She wrote:
"Check the box and you lose the ability to secure a job, rent an apartment or get a loan. The formerly incarcerated – returning citizens – often face a cruel irony in America. Having paid their debt to society, too many are banned from the ballot box that could help them dismantle policies that essentially extend their sentences.

Desmond Meade decided to break this pattern for 1.4 million Floridians. Homeless and suicidal, with a felony record, Desmond fought to graduate with a law degree. When he learned he could not vote for his own wife, a candidate for the state legislature, he became president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and led the charge to adopt a constitutional amendment to re-enfranchise Floridians with felonies. Amendment 4 needed 60% of the vote to pass; in November 2018, it received 65%.

It was the largest expansion of voting rights in a half-century, and Desmond made it happen."

TIME Editor in Chief Edward Felsenthal said in a recent statement, "The TIME 100 isn’t a measure of power, though many on the list wield it. Nor is it a collection of milestones accumulated. As our staff considers candidates, we often find ourselves wowed by those with stunning lifetime achievements."


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