“Getting our voices back,” former felons return to voter rolls following big win in November

Northwest Florida

It’s being called one of the largest enfranchisement of voters in the past century.  Felons who have served their sentences will be allowed to once again register to vote.  That is starting this week.  The influx of voters could have wild implications for close races in the sunshine state, especially in the electoral college.  But for individuals in Escambia County that have worked on this project for years, Tuesday marks a big win.  

As people trickle into the Supervisor of Elections Office to register to vote this week, one will be former felon turned advocate Tranassa White.  She hasn’t been able to vote in about a decade.

“I had to abide by new laws, regulations, new taxes, and I couldn’t have my opinion heard, that’s a helpless moment,” said White via Facebook Messenger Video.  While the major races in Florida faced a recount in November, Amendment 4 passed with a wide margin.   

“This is our voice, this is our way of saying we have worked our way back into society, we’ve amended things that went wrong in our past and our past can no longer dictate our future,” said White.  It’s one victory in a sea of challenges after prison.  

“It’s hard for convicted felons to actually “make it” not just get a job,” said White.  Last month Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis said he’d like to see the legislature weigh in with some sort of implementation language on Amendment 4 but advocates aren’t very worried and are hopeful things run smoothly Tuesday.  

“The voters have spoken, I think that it is a mandate,” said Bishop Leon Rankins III.  He is the Executive Director of ACTS Pensacola.  It’s an organization that helps recently released inmates transition back to more productive lives in society.  They helped knock on doors during the Amendment 4 debate in November.  

“I think it transcends political affiliation, there were democrats and republicans coming together,” said Rankins.  More than a million former felons in Florida could potentially have their voting rights restored Tuesday if they register. 

We checked in with the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections last week to see what their plans were for Tuesday.  As of last Wednesday, Supervisor David Stafford said they expected to get some type of guidance from the Florida Division of Elections but employees at the office were preparing to start processing applications starting Tuesday.  

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