PNS Daily Newscast - July 19, 2019 

Chants of a different sort greet U.S. Rep. Omar upon her return home to Minnesota. Also on our Friday rundown: A new report says gunshot survivors need more outreach, support. Plus, sharing climate-change perspectives in Charlotte.

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Push Is On to Restore Voting Rights to 1.5 Million Floridians

Florida activists want to restore voting rights to many of the people who have served prison time. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
Florida activists want to restore voting rights to many of the people who have served prison time. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
May 27, 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. - More than one in 10 Floridians and nearly a quarter of African-Americans in Florida will be shut out of the polls in November because of past mistakes - but civil rights activists say they hope to change that.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., has introduced legislation in the House -- HR 5352 -- that would restore voting rights to people after leaving prison, with the exception of those convicted of murder, manslaughter or sex crimes. While some believe those who commit serious crimes deserve to permanently forfeit their right to vote, Grayson called this the "civil-rights cause of the 21st century."

"We have to make sure that we never discriminate -- either in intention or effect, in either cause or impact - in any way, against any group of people," he said,

Florida is one of three states to permanently disenfranchise former felons, a policy that affects an estimated 1.5 million people in the state. An effort also is under way to put the issue before Florida voters in the form of a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot.

Desmond Meade was once homeless and a drug addict, but said he turned his life around after a felony conviction, attending college and even getting his law degree in 2014. But Meade, who is heading up the ballot initiative as president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, said that despite everything he's overcome, he still doesn't have a voice at the polls.

"I'm constantly slapped in the face as an American citizen," he said. "My wife is running for office in the Orlando area, and I can't even vote for her -- and it's really an affront to my citizenship."

Currently, only 14 states allow former felons to vote immediately after leaving prison. Four other states restore voting rights after parole, and 18 more do so after probation.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL