Putting our faith into action for second chances

November 23, 2017

More than 1.5 million Floridians have permanently lost the ability to vote, even after completely repaying their debts to society!

Currently, Floridians who have a felony conviction lose their right to vote for life, resulting in 1.68 million citizens disenfranchised from the most basic form of democratic participation. Florida's Constitution grants the Governor and his/her three-person Cabinet exclusive authority to restore civil rights. It is an arbitrary system, without any standardized guidelines in place to allow for objective and prudent decision making. Current law allows the Governor sole discretion to make subjective determinations without any checks and balances in place to counter potential abuses of power. As it stands, Florida's returning citizens have less than a 1 percent chance of having their rights restored, while more 99 percent remain permanently excluded from voting for life.

Florida is the leader in voter suppression.

Nationally, these restrictions make Florida the leader in the number of disenfranchised voters. The 1.68 million citizens barred from voting represents 10 percent of the state's voting population, the highest in the nation. Furthermore, the "war on drugs," coupled with the over-policing of minority communities, has exacerbated the impact on communities of color and has resulted in nearly a quarter of the voting-age African American population being excluded from voting for life.

Does this sound like a just world for all to you?

Call to action for voting rights restoration

The time to act for fairness and democratic participation is now! We need to collect a million signatures by the end of the year to place a measure on the 2018 ballot that would restore voting rights for anyone (except those who have committed murder, or any kind of sexual assault crime) who previously committed a felony and has since served their punishment.

There are two ways churches can participate:

1. Host a "Second Chances Sunday." Preach and/or teach your congregation about the disenfranchisement law. Share what our faith says about the subject, and ask people to sign petitions during or after service.

2. Ask congregants to organize a canvas to collect petitions in the community.

Here is a link to the petition.

Faith in Florida, a statewide network of faith communities who work for racial, economic and environmental justice is supporting our denomination to win voting rights restoration. Please contact Wes Lathrop for support at wlathrop@faithinflorida.org or (267) 975-9218.

God is still speaking