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New Law In Effect; Felons In Jacksonville Register To Vote

Abukar Adan
53-year-old Denean Clark registers to vote for the first time in decades

Several dozen people who served prison sentences congregated at the Duval County Supervisors of Election downtown Tuesday morning to register to vote.

They are among 1.4 million people statewide whose right to vote was restored with a state constitutional amendment voters approved in November.

Denean Clark was visibly emotional as she joined other convicted felons to register to vote for the first time in more than a decade.  

Clark lost her right to vote in 2006 after being convicted of an armed robbery. The 53-year-old has since tried getting her voter registration restored through the state’s clemency process, writing letters and pleading her case. All to no avail.  

That’s when Clark began petitioning for the constitutional amendment that voters approved in November.

“I got out there and I knocked on doors,” she said. “And I asked people, you know. It was amazing to me that a lot of people didn’t vote, don’t vote, and I asked them ‘do it for me.’”

Amendment 4 passed with more than 64% of the vote. Previously only the governor had the authority to restore voting rights.

The new law changes that except for felons convicted of murder and serious sex crimes.  

Tom Robinson hasn’t been able to vote since 1979. He said he was so eager to get his right to vote back that he filled the paperwork in advance and stopped by early to drop off his paperwork Tuesday morning.

“I am happy and I am just moving forward in my life. You know? And continue to do right,” he said.

The 57-year-old said a few years after high school he started have run-ins with the law. He was charged with a string of misdemeanors and a drug felony and sentenced to five  years.

Community organizers said they helped about 125 people register in Jacksonville Tuesday morning.

But Organizer Siottis Jackson said there is no guarantee that the applications will be accepted.

The Supervisor of Elections electronically processes the applications and forwards them to the Secretary of State’s office, which handles verification.

Applications can be rejected if they contain errors.   

Municipal elections in Jacksonville will be held on March 5.

Contact Abukar Adan at 904-358-6319, or on Twitter at @abukaradan17.

Abukar Adan is a former WJCT reporter who left the station for other pursuits in August 2019.