Could Ex-Felon Voting Rights Swing Florida In 2020?


This girl right here? She’s lost, she’s hurting, she’s dark, she’s in so much pain. But the beautiful thing
is, is that she’s dead. She’s buried, and I don’t visit her grave. I’ve had my friend
killed in front of me, and shot at, I’ve been taken at gunpoint, and humiliated by rival gang members. I’ve had over 29 staples
placed on my head. I don’t even know who she is. I don’t even look like her anymore. This is what redemption looks like. I want justice, but more than that, I don’t want anyone else
to have to go through this. I know how the judicial system needs to
change because I’ve been impacted by it [Male] This false
dichotomy, you have to either be tough on crime, or soft on crime. I think the real measure on crime is, are you being smart on
crime, or dumb on crime? The state of Florida
tends to get looked at as a sort of political petri dish. National news outlets swoop
in every election cycle to see how the state will vote, but if you go beyond
the local polling lines, and into the homes and
workplaces of some Floridians, you’ll find that quite a few of them can’t vote even if they wanted to. That’s because if you’re
convicted of a felony in the state of Florida,
you lose your voting rights for life and that affects
nearly one in 10 Floridians. This year, there’s an
amendment on the Florida midterm ballot that could change that. Amendment Four would automatically
restore the voting rights for Floridians with convicted felonies, except for murder or sex crimes, after they completed their sentences. A massive voting rights
restoration like that could have a big impact on elections. Four of the last five
presidential elections have been decided by less
than 300,000 votes in Florida. [News Anchor] NBC News
s now taking Florida out of Vice President Gore’s column, and putting it back in
the Too-Close-To-Call. Amendment Four’s passage would restore voting
rights for an estimated 1.5 million Floridians, and in an increasingly
polarized country and state, the effort has a pretty strong backing across the political spectrum. I lost my voting
eligibilities for life, before I ever had the opportunity to even exercise my voting eligibility. Not mature enough to vote, but mature enough to lose it for life. One of the
people working to restore these voting rights, including
his own, is Angel Sanchez, a former gang member from Miami, who did 12 years in Florida State Prison for attempted murders and robberies. Now, he’s living just down the street from the very wall he hid behind to avoid shootouts as
a teen, only this time, he’s living a much different life. Once I got to prison my case drew me to the law library, and it is sitting in the law library that I discovered a passion for the law. I would get old Introduction
to Business books, and sit in there in prison
looking through these books I would see pictures of kids my age sitting on the grass with their book bags, and I envision myself
being one of those kids. It was almost like seeing a parallel world of what I could be and what I really was. I went from a defendant in that courtroom, to a judicial intern in that courtroom. I got to walk in with the judge when they would say all rise. Her in her robe, me in my
suit, in the same courtroom, where I used to once walk
in in a inmate jumpsuit, and in handcuffs and shackles As the law stands now,
Angel won’t be able to take the Florida Bar exam to
actually become a lawyer after law school, unless his
civil rights are restored. I started law school optimistic, knowing that despite the reality, something, and someone, will
see the work that I’m doing, and say, I’m gonna help,
and that something, that someone, has beenfighting for are still justtaking it day by day One man just got out of jail
and started his first day at ETC. Meanwhile, Leila was about
30 days into the program when we met her, and she’s working
on securing a steady job. So when you’re talking
to somebody and they say, well I’m gonna run a background check, then you say okay, well I
want you to know that yes, I’ve made some poor choices. Don’t say you made mistakes
because they weren’t mistakes, they were poor choices. Because there’s a level of
ownership that you have to take. You did that. But what I’m doing right now
is I’m working a program, I’m actively involved in changing my life. So you want me on your
team because I have purpose and I’m working really
hard to change my life and I would be an asset for you. Yes, my name is Leila Tice. Okay. L-E-I, yes. Girl, this is Ellen. Hey, how you doing? Oh that was kind of funny. We were actually friends in
jail and she had a way bigger charge than me but that’s
kinda encouraging too because now I know that if she has a job there, then I know I can get a job there. Landing an interview
may seem like a small feat to some but Leila’s job
search is part of a larger argument for voting rights restoration. According to the
Washington Economics Group passing Amendment Four
would be more than just a restoration of Civil Rights. It could give the state of
Florida a $365 million boost to its economy. The study looked at two major factors: recidivism, which is when
someone returns to prison and household income in Florida It points to data showing
the recidivism rate for those who are granted their rights
back is lower than the overall population of released inmates Of course in Florida’s system
whether under Crist or Scott those granted clemency are
part of a much more selective group compared to everyone
with felony convictions. But if people are less
likely to go back to prison after their rights are
restored, they’ll be saving tax payers the $20,000 a
year it costs to incarcerate someone in Florida. Plus, they’ll be out
participating in the economy. I was surprised by the
change because I thought it was strong and then we went back
and did more research and look and see nationwide what has happened. And the numbers are there. No question that this is positive. I wouldn’t say that
this is the silver bullet that will change everything, but it’s certainly a low hanging fruit. If Amendment Four passes
they’ll have the potential to change policies that make
it harder for former felons to get hired. We could do things like ban
the box, which would simply mean that I get to get in front
of an employer and show them who Coral Nichols is instead
of a box on an application that says I’m a convicted felon. One example of one of these
possible positive outcomes is Matt Farina. He went through the
Empower to Change program and now he’s a manager
at a local burger joint. I’ve been in the
court system since I was 17 years old. There’s not too many people
that have more felonies than I’ve had and made more
mistakes than I’ve had. They’ll tell you, if he can
do it there’s definitely hope for a lot of people. Now you know, I’m making enough
money to support my family and actually in a position
where I can hire people that started out like myself,
which is a pretty big deal for me. Getting my rights restored
as far as voting and stuff like that, it’s a big deal. I’d like to have a say in what’s going on. have kids in this world, too. Navigating the world
of employment with a felony conviction is complicated I used to be afraid
that speaking that I was a convicted felon and the
words Empower to Change wouldbe in shame, and that
I would harm itAnd all the good
that it means– I was crying myself to sleep
on a top bunk in a homelessshelter saying, this wasn’t the plan.I couldn’t get a job,
no one would hire me.But I kept trying, kept trying.A gentleman offered me a part time job.The only thing to show in my
resume was my prison jobs.– I’m not a fluke of society.I am not some special case
that did it that other peoplecan’t either.I know lots of people who have
changed, that have decidedto be a part of the solution
instead of the problem.– I’m exceptional because people have madeexceptions for me.And I think if we have a
system that doesn’t depend onexceptions but rather on
making exceptional storiesthe norm, we’ll have
more stories like mine.

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