I’m Voting This Midterm Election Because My Father, A Former Felon, Cannot
Voting on Amendment 4 in Florida is important because "... we are not just voting for ourselves, but also to uplift and empower our family, friends and neighbors."
I have the best job ever. I am an organizer for NextGen America, the largest youth organizing program in American history.
Over the past few months, I have registered hundreds of young Floridians before Election Day. In total, NextGen Florida organizers have registered nearly 50,000 young people across the state. While I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve done, there have been some really hard moments, too. I’m from Southwest Florida, where many young people feel like the system has failed them or that they aren’t educated enough to vote. However, this attitude is not a realistic one when the injustices that invade your community affect you when you’re just a high school student, like they did me.
When I hear “no” or “I’m not interested in voting” from young people, I share my own story. I tell them about my dad, and the fact that we are not just voting for ourselves, but also to uplift and empower our family, friends and neighbors.
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My dad wants to vote, but he can’t due to a former felony. He is an incredible father, my hero, and the person who I go to for strength and wisdom. Even though he didn’t go to college, he has given me the guidance and support I’ve needed as a first-generation college student.
Recently, he persevered to obtain further education after having to drop out of high school in order to take care of me and the rest of my family. My father has accomplished so much in his life, but he has also made mistakes — mistakes that have affected him throughout the entirety of his adult life. These mistakes mean that he can’t vote today, despite the fact that he has served his complete sentence, become an amazing father and rebuilt his life.
And he’s not the only one. There are 1.4 million people in Florida who cannot vote because of a former felony. In most states, the right to vote is reinstated upon serving a sentence. However, Florida has some of the strictest voter restoration policies that bar former felons from voting even after serving time, completing parole and probation. Florida is one of the four states in the U.S. that still has these inherently abusive and unnecessarily punitive laws in place.
But come November, young people are the ones who can change that. As the largest voting bloc, we are the ones who can determine the outcome of this election. We are the ones who can shape a future Florida that we are proud of. If we pass Amendment 4, we can reinstate voting rights for almost 10 percent of the Sunshine State’s eligible voting population. We can reinstate voting rights for millions of Floridians.
My dad was the first person to encourage me to participate in politics and claim my voting power. I am voting "yes" on Amendment 4 because my dad cannot. I am voting "yes" on Amendment 4 because I know that voter disenfranchisement disproportionately affects people of color, and works to keep them at a constant state of oppression. I am voting "yes" on Amendment 4 because this could be the first step in changing the narrative around criminality and mass incarceration. I am voting "yes" on Amendment 4 because this issue does not stand alone — it is connected to standing for racial justice, fighting suppression of marginalized communities and demanding equality for all people.
I will vote because it is my right, privilege and duty.