How’s everybody holding up today? Not sure if that foggy feeling in your head and whirling feeling in your belly is anxiety, excitement, or a hangover from all the emotional drinking last night? We hear ya. Dustin’s going to cover a lot of the news from the Midterm Elections. But I called dibs on one very exciting occurrence out of Florida, the passing of Amendment 4, which will restore voting rights to ex-felons. Which means in Florida, the number of people who had their right to vote restored last night could be as high as 1.5 million. That’s equivalent to 10% of Florida’s adult population. That’s more than the population of states like Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, and Hawaii.
Previously, Florida’s laws prevented people from voting even after they’d completed their sentences. Vox notes that Amendment 4 will not restore the right to vote to those convicted of sex offenses or murder, which is why the exact number is a bit unclear at the moment. And because Black people are disproportionately arrested and convicted in our racist justice system, the passing of Amendment 4 is a big win for the block of eligible Black voters in the state, who could see their numbers increase by 21%.
In a swing state where races are often close, the passing of Amendment 4 could be a major gamechanger. And you’ll definitely hear more about it as campaigns gear up for 2020. (I know. Too soon. I’m sorry!) But for the short-term, let’s take a second to celebrate what this means to the people who have had this important right restored. Chiefly, let’s cheer for Latrice Royale, the RuPaul’s Drag Race all-star who is known for her big heart, no-nonsense attitude, belly laugh, and for speaking publicly about the struggles of being a returning citizen (the term preferred over “ex-felon”).
Queerty reports that at age 30, Royale (whose given name is Timothy Wilcots) was caught with marijuana and Klonopin, an offense that earned him probation. But missing a probation meeting landed him in jail for a year, a year during which his mother passed away. He served his time, but lost his voice. On RuPaul’s Drag Race, Royale spoke about this challenging time. And with his documentary, Logo Presents: Gays in Prison, Royale explored the unique challenges that LGBTQA people face behind bars.
Ahead of the midterms, Royale was an outspoken activist for Amendment 4, and took to Instagram to spread the word with this before-and-after shot.
From #Prison To #Pristine - Sharon Needles @sharonneedlespgh my #season4ever sister gave me my #new #tagline But more importantly is the message to follow. I made a mistake! I paid for my crime! I pay my taxes! I spread #Love not #Hate I am my #Best self to date! I DON’T HAVE MY RIGHT TO VOTE! I urge ALL THAT HAVE A VOICE, PLEASE VOTE! Speak for people like me who can’t! I am proud! I am #American but I can’t say that I’m a Proud American! We have much work to do my babies! I love you all! #vote #makeusproudagain #makethemeatit
The American criminal justice system is meant to operate under the idea of reform. But returning citizens are faced with obstacles that challenge this, barring them from jobs and the ballot box after their sentences. So last night was a big win for a movement that aims have our criminal justice system closer to its ideals.