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Gainesville group holds rally to encourage former felons to vote

Published: Oct. 24, 2020 at 11:59 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Hundreds gathered today at the “Free to Vote” Rally and March to the Polls event organized by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. The organizers hoped to encourage members of Alachua County, especially those who have been incarcerated, to get out and vote.

“Today is a representation of a celebration for all returning citizens…people who have their rights restored,” Tamaria Henderson said, a manager at FRRC. “If we’re able to change the mindsets…if we’re able to change the values of what’s going on we can put people in office that need to be in office that care for the people.”

Those who have been incarcerated said just the right to vote is not enough because they should be treated like everyone else in their community.

“We don’t just want to vote and pick a new president, you know what I mean…race or whatever we don’t just want to do that….we want all our rights back,” Cedric Jones said.

Although she is not a convicted felon, Jones' girlfriend says her boyfriend is being affected and his rights are just as important.

“You did your time like it’s done with…you should be able to have all your rights restored and be the free person and this free world that they say that we are,” Kristen Johnson said.

Being eligible to vote as a returning citizen is harder now than it was for Carla Lewis-Miles 20 years ago. She believes this is a result of voter suppression.

“What I would like to see is for the office of clemency to change so that the basic right of voting is given to everybody regardless of whatever trouble they’ve been in,” Miles said.

The rally also had an “unofficial official” ballot, so those who can’t vote legally had the opportunity today to do so.

After performances and poetry at the rally, the crowd marched to cast their ballot and let those around them know their vote matters.

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