Grassroots campaign aims to restore civil rights to nonviolent Florida felons

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(Orlando, FL) When Rodney Johnson walks around parking lots, football games, car washes, and meat markets asking passersby, “Do you believe in second chances?”—for him, it’s personal.

“I’m passionate about this work because I’m doing it for myself and people like me,” says Johnson, a Community Organizer with Organize Florida’s Tampa Bay Region. “Everyone knows somebody that made a mistake in their life and wants a second chance. That’s all I’m asking for. I just want the chance to be a productive member of my community, provide for my family and be able to vote.”

Johnson, 46, is among the foot soldiers on the frontlines of “Say Yes to Second Chances,” a grassroots campaign to restore voting rights to the state’s more than 1.6 million felons who have completed their sentences for non-violent offenses.

Although Johnson served a 22-month prison sentence for drugs, Florida is one of three states that permanently strips convicted felons of their right to vote and other civil rights.

“Most of the people I meet believe in second chances and sign (the petition),” Johnson adds. “I don’t think you should have to pay the rest of your life for making a mistake and doing your time.”

The goal of the “Say Yes to Second Chances” campaign is to collect 1 million signatures from registered Florida voters by the end of the year, to get the issue on the November 2018 ballot. Organize Florida is one of several groups across the state assisting the effort to gather signatures and petitions toward this cause.

The effort is well on it’s way to success, however, help is still needed. 

Join us at these “Say Yes to Second Chances” events on Saturday in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orlando and speak to some of the people on the frontlines for rights restoration.

ORLANDO:  10 a.m. to 12 p.m.  — Volunteer Canvass – UCF Tailgate Edition. Meet at Organize Florida Orlando office, 130 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, and carpool to the University of Central Florida before the noon football game. You can also meet us at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, 4201 E Plaza Dr., Orlando. Call (407) 330-8792

TAMPA:  10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Rowlette Park, 2401 E. Yukon St., Tampa;  3 p.m. to 5 p.m. — 97X Next Big Thing, Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheater, 4802 N. US Highway 301, Tampa

ST. PETERSBURG:  3 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Historic Williams Park Outdoor Movie Screening of “Elf” and Craft Market, 330 2nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg