By J.D. Gallop and Lamaur Stancil
Handing out campaign fliers on the streets of Orlando and gleefully talking about the politics of change was a late-in-life moment of awakening for Cecilia Thomas.
The year was 2008 and the single mother of six – like millions of other Americans – found herself captivated by a message of hope from a lanky senator from Illinois named Barack Obama.
But as hot as the fire for her newfound political passion burned, there was one problem: as an ex-felon, Thomas could not vote.
“It hurt,” she said, reflecting on the feeling of hearing others talk about their intention to put an African-American in the White House.
Until last week, Florida — along with Iowa and Kentucky — was one of three states that barred anyone who has committed a felony from casting a ballot.
Now, in the aftermath of the 2018 midterm elections, change has come. More than 60 percent of Florida voters chose on Election Day to restore voting rights to people with prior felonies, amending the state constitution and changing the face of the Florida electorate.
The passage of Amendment 4 gives back the full citizenship rights to the state’s 1.5 million ex-felons who — like Thomas — were convicted and completed sentences for past crimes. The exception: those who committed violent offenses such as murder or sexual offenses.