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Activists canvass for the Voting Rights Restoration Initiative in Florida in November 2017. (Florida Rights Restoration Coalition / Facebook)

FRRC is Tapping Into Shared Humanity in Florida

In the United States, more than 6 million people are denied their right to vote because they were once convicted of a felony. There are only three states with a law restricting former felons’ right to vote, and in Florida, the problem is at its worst. In Florida, nearly 1.7 million people cannot vote, many of whom were convicted of a non-violent felony and have paid their debt to society.

Desmond Meade, a formerly homeless veteran and returning citizen, is all too familiar with this. After serving his sentence and struggling with addiction and depression, Desmond turned his life around. He went on to get his college degree and later his law degree, and started a family. A few years ago, he dared to believe that he could one day vote and set out to build a grassroots network that could take this Jim Crow law off the books.

In Florida, the only way to reverse this policy is to pass a statewide constitutional amendment through a ballot measure with a 60% affirmative vote by the residents of Florida. Desmond started Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) out of the trunk of his car with no paid employees and no revenue. He began the trek to grow an organization that is led by those closest to the pain, and to get the Voting Restoration Amendment (Amendment 4) on the ballot not knowing he would end up inspiring a movement of thousands locally and nationally.

In 2017, Tides Advocacy partnered with FRRC to give them the necessary infrastructure to fulfill their vision. Now FRRC has a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot, over 30 full-time employees, and chapter volunteers in every part of Florida, from Pensacola to Key West.

Partnering with Tides Advocacy allowed us to take a lot off our plates and gave us the bandwidth to focus on our strategies, push our vision, and focus on the issue and the campaign. If Tides Advocacy hadn’t been part of the equation, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are in such an accelerated fashion.”

-Desmond Meade

Tides Advocacy has been nimble to respond to the fast-moving needs of this campaign. From hiring full and part time employees, to managing volunteers, to managing risk and compliance, we’ve stood at the ready as FRRC does what is necessary to win.

FRRC Day On The Hill, January 2018

The campaign empowers the people who are directly impacted by the justice system to lead this movement. FRRC organizes and trains thousands of volunteers on the ground. While they are organizing to pass Amendment 4 through the Second Chances Campaign, they are looking to build long-term power as the political home for directly impacted people.

When asked what makes their campaign so powerful, Desmond’s answer comes swiftly and simply: “We organize around love, not fear. The love we have for family members and friends who have made mistakes and are now looking for a second chance. This issue touches people of all walks of life.”

Regardless of what happens in November, FRRC will continue the movement to restore a life of dignity to those who’ve made a mistake and paid their debt. FRRC looks forward to connecting people around their shared humanity, and Tides Advocacy will provide the infrastructure so they can continue to improve policies and systems that work for all people.

“Because of Tides Advocacy, we can move the ball further and faster. And at the pace of what’s happening to people, every day counts. The quicker we resolve this, the more lives we save.”
-Desmond Meade