Over 1.6 million people in Florida have been convicted of a felony. That’s 10.4% of the state’s voting-age population, according to a 2017 report. The moment they are convicted, Floridians lose rights that many of us take for granted: the right to serve on a jury or in a public office, the right to purchase a firearm, the right to hold many professional licenses, and the right to vote.
In 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 4, also called the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative. With the passage of Amendment 4, ex-felons regained one method of civic power and influence: voting. But critics have not left the measure unchallenged.
This three-part series follows three Florida women’s paths to being charged with felonies, their challenges to reentry, and their efforts to fight for Amendment 4 as a way to reclaim their identity and their right to vote.
As it does for many, Latashia Brimm’s pathway to a felony conviction started at a very young age. For her, it began with a sexually and emotionally abusive stepfather and a pattern of domestic violence. The fight to pass Amendment 4, also known as the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, spoke to Brimm’s need to regain her civic power and personal independence. With the right to vote reclaimed, she felt she would no longer be invisible.
Tequila McKnight is one of many former felons who joined a grassroots movement to campaign for Amendment 4. Voters ultimately passed the bipartisan measure by a majority in 2018. Since then, mounting legal battles and extensive barriers to reentry have stifled the amendment’s intended impact: to re-enfranchise over 10% of Florida’s population.
Women like Latashia Brimm and Tequila McKnight are a growing segment of the U.S. electorate and an increasingly impactful force when it comes to supporting, organizing and speaking for the needs of their communities. Their efforts can be seen in new, creative collaborations and initiatives that work to shift civic power to low-income neighborhoods and communities of color that have been historically disenfranchised.