By Ann Hellmuth, LWV Orange County member.
At 8 a.m., Tuesday the doors of the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office opened and led by Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, ex-felons who have completed their sentences prepared to register to vote.
It was a moment that will live in history.
“We want the same people who voted for us out of love to be with us and witness what we think is a historic and solement moment,” Meade told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday.
Marquis McKenzie was 15 when as a juvenile he was convicted of robbery.
“That was 13 years ago,” McKenzie said Tuesday as he left the elections office after registering to vote. “It felt so good. I was happy and excited. It has taken a long time. “
McKenzie, who has a janitorial business, said he registered because he felt it was “important to voice your opinion.”
Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said everything was going smoothly. “There were no problems,” he said. “No big lines. You have to remember that people can also register other ways such as online and at libraries.”
The amendment, supported by the League of Women Voters of Florida, was approved by voters last year with more than 64 percent of the vote. It allows former felons – except those convicted of murder or felony sex offenses – to register to vote. Previously, felons seeking to vote had to ask the state’s clemency board, made up of the governor and three Cabinet members. The board has a backlog of more than 10,000 restoration of rights requests and as few as 400 a year are usually approved.
After registering, Milton Carson, 60, studied a copy of the application. He said he was worried about question 2, which asks applicants to check they are not a convicted felon or had had their rights restored “I am afraid it could be a loophole and allow former felons to be disqualified,” he said, looking anxious.
If you would like more information on Voter Restoration, click here.