Hundreds gather to rally returning citizens to vote early in Orlando

Rapper and activist Common headlines voter turnout events

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – With Election Day being less than two weeks away, leaders from the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition said statewide they’ve paid off fines and fees for 40,000 returning citizens in an effort to encourage them to vote.

The organization used Saturday as a statewide day of action where thousands of returning citizens are expected to early vote.

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Groups of people lined the streets through Parramore to the Amway Center chanting, “Free the people, free the vote.”

Desmond Meade serves as the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

“This year is the first time they get a chance to participate with society,” he said. “We have people who voted for their very first time who are in their 60s and 70s.”

News 6 was there when Meade legally registered to vote last year after Amendment 4 passed in Florida. He said since then, he’s done bus tours across Florida pushing the importance of felons voting.

He said his organization has since paid off fines and fees for more than 40,000 returning citizens statewide so they can vote. The $27 million is from celebrities and generous people who donated.

The plan is to spend even more, especially in the Parramore neighborhood.

“We had set aside over $500,000 to help pay off fines and fees so people wouldn’t be forced to put food on their table or voting,” Meade added.

After performing at Florida Rights Restoration Coalition’s #FreeTheVote, rapper and activist Common took part in a roundtable discussion with SEIU union workers, which represents thousands of workers in the service industry. The union spent the afternoon canvassing neighborhoods to get more voters to the polls.

“It just needs to be enough people,” Common said. “You speaking up, as micro as it may seem, you putting that vote in is changing the shift and the tide for you and your people and for people a long time.”

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