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John Legend lends support as Florida felons get voting rights returned

‘It’s so beautiful to see’: John Legend shows up in court to support 18 former Florida felons being granted the right to vote again

  • The singer sat in a Miami courtroom as 18 former felons stood before a judge
  • The judge ensured the ex-felons were qualified to regain their voting rights 
  • Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing about 1.4million ex-felons to vote again
  • The state Legislature enacted a law requiring the former felons to pay any fees, fines and restitution before being able to vote again
  • John Legend backs efforts to allow ex-felons to fully regain their place in society
  • He was in Florida for a fundraiser for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition

Singer John Legend was on hand to lend support Friday as 18 former felons were granted the right to vote in what Miami officials called a simple and streamlined process.

The ceremony in a Miami-Dade County courtroom was meant to show that ex-felons can regain their voting rights, even if the Republican-controlled state Legislature enacted a law requiring them to pay any fees, fines and restitution first.

Florida voters approved constitutional Amendment 4 last year aimed at allowing about 1.4million ex-felons to vote. 

The Legislature’s subsequent law put the financial requirements in place, landing the issue before the Florida Supreme Court which heard oral arguments earlier this week.

Singer songwriter John Legend (left) greets Carmen Brown (right) who was the first person called up in a special court hearing aimed at restoring her right to vote Friday in Miami

Legend said he backs efforts to allow former felons to fully regain their place in society.

‘It’s so beautiful to see,’ Legend told reporters. ‘So many people take it for granted, this right to vote. When you lose it, it makes you realize how important it is.’

‘It just shows you how important democracy is, how precious democracy is,’ he added. ‘It’s important for all of us to be included in that.’

The Grammy winner held a fundraiser Thursday night for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which is mounting a statewide effort to help former prisoners obtain the right to vote.

One by one, the former felons came before Circuit Judge Nushin Sayfie for brief hearings to ensure they are qualified to regain the right to vote. One of them was Andre Williams, 63, who had an aggravated assault conviction on his record.

Legend (arriving at the hearings) was in the Miami court to support the 18 former felons who were having their right to vote restored under Florida’s Amendment 4, passed in 2018

Legend (in blue suit) is seated in the courtroom next to president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Desmond Meade (left), State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle (in pink) and Public defender, Carlos Martinez (far right)

Legend (seated in blue suit) said he backs efforts to allow former felons to fully regain their place in society. He watched as the 18 former felons appeared before a judge Friday 

Carmen Brown (right) hugs state Attorney for Miami-Dade County, Katherine Fernandez Rundle (left) after Brown got her right to vote restored during a special court hearing Friday

Legend (arriving at the court house) said that the right to vote is something ‘So many people take it for granted’ and that losing it ‘makes you realize how important it is’

‘I’m happy. Very, very happy,’ he said. ‘It’s what I fought for, forever.’

Carlos Martinez, the Miami-Dade public defender, said people seeking restoration of voting rights can apply through the FRRC website and most would not need to come to court. If they do owe fines or restitution, Martinez said there are ways to settle those debts.

‘We are all working with them to see those amounts are paid,’ he said.

Desmond Meade, president of FRRC, said the organization is planning a bus tour to raise awareness through all 67 Florida counties.

‘We want to encourage everyone to participate in our democracy, because that’s what makes us vibrant,’ Meade said. ‘There is hope. There is a pathway forward. We are hoping to replicate this throughout the state.’

The bright red bus features images of former felons, one carrying a sign that reads, ‘When a debt is paid, it’s paid.’ It also has the slogan, ‘Our vote, our voice, our time’ on the side.

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