Local ex-felon speaks out after voting rights restored
PENSACOLA, Fla. (WEAR) —
More than 1.4 million convicted felons in Florida will automatically have their right to vote restored. That’s because of a ballot measure that got about 65 percent of the vote last week.
Derric Kitt knows what he wants to do next – register to vote.
"I don't even know if people really recognize what they've did, and this is big,” Kitt said.
At 17 years old, Kitt became a convicted felon.
"Seventeen years old, got in a fight, just like that - a felony,” he said.
He’s never been able to cast a ballot because under Florida’ constitution, felons couldn’t vote without approval from the governor.
"Our opinions were pointless. I was worried that it would not pass and would continue like it has been for decades of years,” he said.
On Election Day last week, more than 60 percent of Florida voters restored voting rights to people who have served their sentences, as long as the crime committed wasn’t murder or sexual abuse.
"When they did it, I definitely was shocked. I was like, my Jesus, it definitely caught me off guard, I wasn't expecting for that to really pass because we have all been criticized for so long,” Kitt said.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Deputy Political Director Sara Latshaw said supporters of Amendment 4 gathered nearly one million signatures of registered voters to have it included on the midterm ballot.
Latshaw said the ACLU paid for more than $5 million in advertisements to give people who paid their debt to society a second chance.
"The passage of Amendment 4 has been a combination of hard work by supporters, volunteers, and people who were impacted by the problem across the state. For the last year, we worked hard to have conversations with Floridians about how this will impact our state and the importance of second chances. It’s time to move on to the next step, which will be helping to get those who are eligible to register to vote registered,” Latshaw said.
Kitt said just the thought of having a chance to vote makes him feel like he has a voice for the first time ever.
"Just having that right, and even if I wasn't the type of person to vote, them fighting for us to vote will make me get up and go vote - so I'm very excited about it and I can't wait to vote,” Kitt said.