766,000 certified signatures are needed for the initiative to qualify, and so far organizers with Floridians for a Fair Democracy believe they have close to 1 million.
If the measure is voter-approved next year - which requires 60 percent support - Florida would see most of its convicted felons re-enfranchised.
Florida is one of a handful of states, mostly in the Deep South, that make it all but impossible for felons to regain their right to vote after they complete their sentence. Currently, an individual has to petition the governor for an individual restoration of rights, and few such cases are granted. The process is designed to be as byzantine and as insurmountable as possible. In practice, for the vast majority of felons, disenfranchisement is a lifelong condition.
Current estimates are that 1.5 million Floridians are voteless, the majority of whom have completed their sentences with some still serving.
“This is about creating a more inclusive democracy,” argues 50-year-old Desmond Meade, an Orlando resident who founded the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition a few years back. Meade knows the effects of disenfranchisement firsthand: Addicted to drugs, he cycled in and out of jail and prison in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In the mid 2000s, Meade weaned himself off drugs, went to school, and earned a law degree - but he remains unable to vote.
“It’s less about how a person votes, whether they vote Democrat or Republican,” he explains. “It’s about redemption, second chances. Once a person has served their time, they should be able to move on with their lives.”