Addiction shouldn’t mean losing the right to vote
In 2010, the state of Florida began a serious crackdown on pill mills in our state. Due to the laws passed by our legislature and the work of local law enforcement and health care workers, deaths due to opioid overdoses fell significantly.
Unfortunately, the crackdown on pill mills has led to the rise of a new, equally heinous opioid epidemic in our state fueled by heroin. For many Floridians, addiction to this drug, or others, has touched your life in some way through friends, family members, loved ones, or an issue you may have overcome yourself.
Now imagine this: after being arrested for heroin possession, working through the legal system, successfully completing treatment, and rebuilding your life, you come to find out that one of your most sacred rights has been stripped away forever.
In Florida, possession of heroin is a Third Degree felony and felons permanently lose their right to vote.
By criminalizing addiction, we are putting up unnecessary barriers for Floridians looking to fully reintegrate into our communities. When you take away someone’s ability to fulfill their greatest civic duty because of an addiction, you are in effect singling them out for their entire life based off a chapter in their life they undoubtedly would like to turn the page on.
That’s why we must pass the ballot initiative being proposed by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition in 2018. This initiative would make the restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons automatic in Florida.
Currently, Florida is one of just three states nationwide that does not have automatic restoration of voting rights. Our current system of appearing before the clemency board can take years and there’s no guarantee that your petition will ever even be heard. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated in his letter from the Birmingham jail, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
The time to pass this amendment is now. Too many Floridians, not just those who may have overcome addiction issues but others who may have made mistakes, are being denied the ability to exercise their right to vote.
Last spring, the FRRC was able to gather the 71,000 petition signatures necessary for the amendment’s language to be reviewed by the Supreme Court and it was approved.
Now, they are in the process of completing the even more Herculean task of getting the 753,000 plus signatures in order for it to appear on the ballot in 2018.
You can sign a petition by visiting the FRRC’s website at https://floridarrc.com/volunteer#petition and then get out in your community to spread the word about passing the amendment next year.
All of us should be together in this fight to provide justice to those who have served their debt to society and are yearning to regain their full rights as a member of our society.
It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s a reaffirmation of our fellow Floridians’ humanity.