I'm writing this on behalf of a group of citizens here in Franklin County who are working with a non-partisan statewide coalition of civic and religious organizations, Second Chances Florida, to put a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot which would automatically restore the voting rights of convicted felons once they have paid their debt to society.

In all but three states this occurs automatically, but Florida is one of the exceptions. As a result, 1.5 million Floridians are being denied their most fundamental constitutional right -- the right to vote.

At present, Floridians seeking restoration of voting rights have to apply through a long and cumbersome process involving complicated paperwork, and then await a decision on their application. I personally know one local resident for whom it took five years to regain his voting rights, even though their denial was based on a conviction in another state for which he completed all the requirements of his sentence decades ago!

Second Chances Florida and a network of volunteers across our state have spent months getting people to sign the petitions necessary to get the Voting Restoration Amendment on the 2018 ballot. The ballot summary for the amendment which will appear on the 2018 ballot if we are successful states that:

"This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole and probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor or Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis."

Broad support for this amendment across our state is evidenced by the fact nearly 900,000 Floridians have signed petitions in support of giving Floridians the opportunity to vote on it next November. As Second Chances Florida notes on its website, "Law enforcement, faith leaders, employers, and a large majority of Floridians from all walks of life support people being able to earn back their right to vote because it gives them a stake in the community and makes it less likely they will end up back in prison.”

If you believe in redemption and second chances for our fellow citizens who have done wrong but have done their time and are trying to put their lives back together, please join us by filling out a petition. We are in the final stretch of our effect to reach one million signatures by Dec. 31. You can obtain a copy of the petition in one of three ways:

Visit the website www.floridiansforafairdemocracy.com where you can print a copy, fill it out, and mail it to the address shown on the petition;
E-mail our local group franklin2ndchance@gmail.com and we'll arrange to get a petition to you;
Call, text, or e-mail me if you know me personally.

 We can collect your completed petition and submit it to Second Chances Florida or you can mail it directly to them, whichever you prefer.

I hope many of you will say Yes to second chances for our fellow Floridians!

Beth Wright