Why you should care
Because America values forgiveness and rehabilitation.
In another election year where the margins in Florida could tip the balance and make the difference between four years of saluting “Mister” or “Madam” President, a large voting bloc is being blocked: More than 1.5 million Floridians (more than 500,000 of whom are African-American) cannot vote. Florida is one of only three states in the U.S. that legally strips voting rights from former felons — even once they’ve completed their sentences.
The only way for an ex-convict to have his or her rights restored is to make a direct, formal appeal to the governor and the Clemency Board once they’ve been out of prison for more than seven years. In current Florida Governor Rick Scott’s first term, just 1,550 people have had their rights restored (compared to 155,000 under previous Republican turned Democratic Governor Charlie Crist). Nearly 10,000 have satisfied the requirements and are still waiting.
In this OZY original video, former U.S. Marine Luis Gonzalez says he’s paid his debt, but without the right to vote, he feels like a second-class citizen in the country where he was born and raised.