Florida felon voting activist Meade gets civil rights back

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida activist who led a movement to allow most former felons to vote got more civil rights restored under a new state clemency program.

Desmond Meade, head of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, announced in a Twitter video Saturday that he can now run for office, serve on a jury and take the bar exam to become a lawyer. Meade has a law degree from Florida International University.

“This is good. It’s good,” Meade said on the video. “The restoration of my civil rights definitely helped remove some hurdles for me.”

Meade, 54, was a leader in the successful 2018 effort to enact a voter-approved constitutional amendment restoring felon voting rights after their sentences are complete. The Republican-led Legislature later passed a measure requiring all financial obligations such as fines to also be completed, which critics said primarily disenfranchises minorities and poor people.

Meade, who served prison time for drug and firearms offenses, already has the right to vote and did so in 2020. The other rights were automatically restored under a policy adopted in March by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet, which decides clemency issues.

The rights restoration policy does not apply to people convicted of murder or felony sex crimes.

DeSantis has previously denied a pardon for Meade, largely because he received a dishonorable discharge in 1990 from the Army.

Meade last month was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” of $625,000 in recognition of his work. Meade has said the money will be used to pay off law school loans and to continue his work for people convicted of felonies.

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