FRRC rally: Hey, hey, what do you say? Let our people vote today.
Marquis McKenzie: I honestly didn’t really think being a felon was that serious in the state of Florida. And I thought because I was a juvenile that it wasn’t going to be on my adult record. But I didn’t realize that I got adjudicated guilty as a juvenile. So, that means it’s going to stay on my record as an adult.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: MARQUIS MCKENZIE HAD NO IDEA HIS CRIME, AT THE AGE OF 15, WOULD COST HIM HIS MOST VALUABLE RIGHT: THE ABILITY TO FREELY VOTE.
Marquis McKenzie: Even to this day, I’m labeled as a violent offender and I’m nowhere near the person who I used to be.
YVONNE LATTY: DAVID AYALA SPENT 17 YEARS IN AND OUT OF PRISON. TODAY HE AND HIS WIFE, ARAMIS, ARE FIGHTING TO ENSURE THAT THOSE WHO HAVE NOT HAD POWER CAN FINALLY ATTAIN IT.
David Ayala: History shows less people vote when you suppress the vote.
Aramis Ayala: It’s a strategy, it intimidates people, and it certainly makes them much more apathetic, that they don’t matter, and minimize their value as Americans and or in this case, Floridians. They have forgotten that the purpose of their work is service to the people, not service to their power.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THIS IS SEASON THREE OF SOUNDS LIKE HATE, A PODCAST SERIES FROM THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER. I’M JAMILA PAKSIMA.
YVONNE LATTY: AND I’M YVONNE LATTY.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: WE ARE EXAMINING THE RIGHTS AND LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS WHO STILL, DESPITE DECADES OF CIVIL RIGHTS BATTLES AND TRIUMPHS, ARE FORCED TO CONTINUE TO DEMAND EQUAL RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS PROMISED TO ALL AMERICANS. THIS IS COLLATERAL DAMAGE PART 2.
YVONNE LATTY: WE ARE REPORTING ON THE NEW WAVE OF VOTER SUPPRESSION LEGISLATION AND SYSTEMIC SUPPRESSION OF VOTING RIGHTS. MOST OFTEN, SUPPRESSION IMPACTS VOTERS OF COLOR, DISENFRANCHISED INDIVIDUALS AND PEOPLE WITH PAST FELONY CONVICTIONS. WE ARE IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA TO MEET PEOPLE WHO HAVE SERVED TIME FOR THEIR CRIMES AND SIMPLY WANT TO LIVE A LIFE OF FULL POTENTIAL AND SAY THEY ARE WILLING TO FIGHT FOR IT.
Marquis McKenzie: I already had my mind set before I even got to prison. I knew I want to come home. I want to start a business. I want to help people, that got certain convictions. And I just want to live straight narrow.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: WE ARE LOOKING AT VOTER SUPPRESSION AND HOW IT IMPACTS INCARCERATED AND FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE IN FLORIDA, INCLUDING A LITTLE-KNOWN STRATEGY CALLED PRISON GERRYMANDERING.
YVONNE LATTY: FLORIDA’S MAJORITY REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS HAVE BEEN CHALLENGING THE ACCESS TO VOTING FOR DECADES. AFTER THE LOSS OF DONALD TRUMP TO JOE BIDEN, AND DOZENS OF UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS OF NATIONWIDE VOTER FRAUD, THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE AND GOV. RON DESANTIS RADICALLY OVERHAULED THE ELECTIONS LAWS AND PROCEDURES TO MAKE IT HARDER FOR DISENFRANCHISED INDIVIDUALS, THE POOR AND INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES TO MAIL IN BALLOTS, HAVE ACCESS TO DROP BOXES OR SIMPLY ACCEPT ASSISTANCE TO VOTE. SOME OF THE ORGANIZATIONS IN OUR REPORT, INCLUDING THE FLORIDA RIGHTS AND RESTORATION COALITION AND HARRIET TUBMAN FREEDOM FIGHTERS, HAVE RECEIVED LEGAL SUPPORT AND GRANTS TO ENSURE FULL ACCESS TO VOTING. THE VOTE YOUR VOICE GRANT IS A SPLC-SPONSORED AND FUNDED PROGRAM IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION FOR GREATER ATLANTA, WHICH DISTRIBUTES THE FUNDS TO DOZENS OF NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS IN THE DEEP SOUTH WORKING TO INCREASE VOTER PARTICIPATION, CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AND FAIR REDISTRICTING.
Marquis McKenzie: I found my passion inside of jail.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: REFUSING TO LET THE PAST DEFINE HIM, MARQUIS HAS SPENT THE YEARS SINCE BEING IN PRISON MASTERING THE ART OF CLEANING UP MESSES.
Marquis McKenzie: Growing up, my mom used to always make us clean, right? She used to do crazy stuff like pull out the stove clean behind… oh, people don’t do that. Pull out the refrigerator, clean behind the refrigerator, or she’ll go outside, get a cup of dirt, throw it in the tub and make us scrub the tub. And when I got to jail, every time I was cleaning, for some reason I was at peace, and I just didn’t know why I, like, I enjoy cleaning. So I was like, when I come home, I’m a started a cleaning business.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: MARQUIS IS AN ENTREPRENEUR AND A FATHER OF THREE KIDS. THEY JOIN HIM TODAY TO HELP HIM CLEAN AN OFFICE IN ORLANDO.
Child: I just help them clean wherever they go, wherever location they go to.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: HE SAYS IT’S NO DIFFERENT THEN WHEN HIS MOM TAUGHT HIM TO CLEAN WHEN HE WAS YOUNG.
Marquis McKenzie: Make sure you wipe, wipe around the keyboards
JAMILA PAKSIMA: NOT ONLY IS MARQUIS PASSIONATE ABOUT CLEANING, BUT HE IS ALSO PASSIONATE ABOUT VOTING RIGHTS AND THE EFFECT ON MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES AND PEOPLE OF COLOR.
Marquis McKenzie: When you think about things and policies that can affect somebody immediately, that’s the type of power that voting have. When you elect someone who make the decision about your budget? Who makes a decision about what’s going to happen in your community or what’s going to even happen in your schools?
JAMILA PAKSIMA: EVEN WHILE CLEANING, MARQUIS STILL HAS VOTER SUPPRESSION ON HIS MIND
Marquis McKenzie: That’s the type of power voting has. I think the biggest way that voters are being suppressed is not enough voter education out there that’s freely open to the community. And it’s like you have people that’s on the ground that want to engage other people. But I think it’s not as easy as it should be.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: TODAY MARQUIS SPLITS HIS TIME BETWEEN DIRTMASTERS, HIS COMMERCIAL CLEANING BUSINESS WHERE HE HIRES INDIVIDUALS WITH PAST CONVICTIONS, HIS NONPROFIT FOR THE HOMELESS, AND FRRC, THE FLORIDA RIGHTS AND RESTORATION COALITION, WHERE IS THE STATEWIDE COMMUNITY OUTREACH LIAISON HELPING TURN OUT THE VOTE AND REGISTER THOUSANDS OF RETURNING CITIZENS.
Jamila Paksima: How do you explain where the term returning citizen came from?
David Ayala: That’s the term we use here in Florida for folks who are formerly incarcerated convicted people. Changing the picture of a person when they say a convicted felon.
YVONNE LATTY: LIKE MARQUIS, DAVID AYALA, HAS BEEN ON A JOURNEY TRANSFORMING HIS LIFE FROM HIS PAST. DAVID FOUND HIMSELF TANGLED UP IN THE LEGAL SYSTEM AS A YOUNG BOY TOO. HE WAS FIRST INCARCERATED IN NEW YORK STATE. IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF HIS JOURNEY ON THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE. TODAY HE IS THE NATIONAL ORGANIZER AT FORMERLY INCARCERATED, CONVICTED PEOPLE AND FAMILIES MOVEMENT.
David Ayala: I got caught up in the school system, frustrated and taking out my anger in school from the stuff that I was experiencing at home.
YVONNE LATTY: DAVID REMEMBERS SEEING HIS MOM BEING BEATEN BY HER LIVE-IN BOYFRIEND. HE FELT HELPLESS. HE SAYS HE HAD NOWHERE FOR HIS ANGER TO GO, SO HE LASHED OUT AT SCHOOL.
David Ayala: I had good grades. Instead of them calling my mother up to the school to find out where the frustration was coming from, you know why, why am I acting out? They actually coerced my mom into signing me over to the system.
YVONNE LATTY: DAVID’S MOM, A SPANISH-SPEAKING PUERTO RICAN, SIGNED HIM OVER TO THE STATE WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO READ THE DOCUMENTS IN ENGLISH. SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS AGREEING TO ENROLL HER SON IN A MENTORSHIP PROGRAM OR COUNSELING SERVICES. INSTEAD, 12-YEAR-OLD DAVID WAS ARRESTED AND SENT TO A GROUP HOME WHERE HE SPENT YEARS THINKING HIS MOM HAD ABANDONED HIM.
David Ayala: Went into the state system, and I actually learned more about the streets in the state system than I knew when I was out.
YVONNE LATTY: DAVID LEVERAGED THE CONNECTIONS HE MADE IN THE GROUP HOME TO SELL DRUGS, WHICH GOT HIM IN DEEPER TROUBLE.
David Ayala: From the age of 12 to the age of 33, which is 21 years, I experienced juvenile detention centers, group homes, Rikers Island, state prisons and then federal prison, which is really where I grew up.
YVONNE LATTY: AFTER 21 YEARS IN AND OUT OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM FOR FELONY DRUG CONSPIRACY AND COUNTERFEITING CHARGES, DAVID WAS RELEASED FROM FEDERAL PRISON IN FLORIDA. HIS TICKET TO EMPLOYMENT WAS A CERTIFICATE HE EARNED INSIDE AS A FITNESS TRAINER. TWO DAYS INTO HIS FREEDOM, HE LANDED HIS FIRST JOB AT A HEALTH CLUB AND MET ARAMIS, WHO WAS A CUSTOMER.
Aramis Ayala: We met over actually by the ab machine, which is interesting. And we started talking. And at that time we really did just build a friendship.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: ARAMIS WAS 32 YEARS OLD AND RECOVERING FROM HER NEAR FATAL CANCER TREATMENT, WHICH REQUIRED SHE HAVE DOUBLE HIP REPLACEMENT. ARAMIS WAS IN THE GYM WITH A GIRLFRIEND BUILDING UP HER STRENGTH. SHE SHARED HER HEALTH STRUGGLE WITH DAVID AND LET HIM KNOW SHE WAS AN ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER. AND DAVID WAS HONEST ABOUT HIS HISTORY.
Aramis Ayala: And it took probably about six months before we took it to an actual relationship. And then about a year later, we were engaged. And then a year after that, we got married.
Jamila Paksima: You know, “returning citizens” have like a scarlet letter on them, it’s really hard in life to move ahead with that as part of your baggage. How did you not let that impact your relationship and then going forward?
David Ayala: Once I was honest with her, I think what she did with that information built me up, was encouraging, made me feel as if, you know what, I do belong here.
Aramis Ayala: I knew I was taking a risk, you know, but he was special. You know, he was very open, day one, to tell someone who had dreams of being a prosecutor, who had a history of being a prosecutor, about his criminal background, spoke volumes to his ability to be transparent and his desire to change. And there was no way I was going to leave that on the ground.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THEN WHEN ARAMIS RAN FOR ELECTED OFFICE IN 1999 FOR FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY, DAVID DISCOVERED HE COULDN’T VOTE FOR HER.
David Ayala: My right to vote was taken before I was, even eligible to vote. Florida laws are so confusing — it states that they are of good faith and credit. If your conviction is in another state and you can vote in that state, you’re eligible to vote here. So when I finished my federal probation in 2011, in 2012 I registered to vote, and I voted at that time for Obama, because of what their policies actually state. After I got involved with the restoration of voting rights, I wanted other folks with felony convictions to be able to vote like I can to be able to have that feeling that you feel when you walk into the voting booth that power you have that your vote matters.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: DISENFRANCHISED VOTING RIGHTS WAS A POLITICAL ISSUE BOTH HE AND ARAMIS WERE PASSIONATE ABOUT DEFENDING. HE WAS HIRED AS AN ORGANIZER FOR THE ORLANDO CHAPTER OF FRRC. THIS IS THE SAME ORGANIZATION MARQUIS WORKS WITH TODAY. DAVID TRIED TO RESTORE HIS CIVIL RIGHTS BY APPEALING TO FLORIDA’S CLEMENCY BOARD. AND IT WAS THEN HE REALIZED HE ACTUALLY WAS NOT PERMITTED TO VOTE IN FLORIDA. DAVID HAD MISUNDERSTOOD THE POLICY AND COULD HAVE RETURNED TO PRISON FOR COMMITTING A FELONY. NOT ONLY HAD HE VOTED FOR OBAMA, BUT HE VOTED A SECOND TIME IN THE LOCAL ELECTIONS.
David Ayala: Oh, my God, I can’t vote for Aramis.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: DAVID WORRIED HIS ERROR MIGHT COME OUT AND IMPACT ARAMIS’ CAMPAIGN FOR STATE ATTORNEY. HE PUBLICLY ADMITTED HE MADE AN ERROR AND, LUCKILY, NO CHARGES WERE PRESSED.
David Ayala: She was on the campaign, I was doing everything, everything you can do to get someone elected except the most important thing, and that’s vote for them. I could not do that.
YVONNE LATTY: THE REASON DAVID COULD NOT LAWFULLY VOTE FOR HIS WIFE IS BECAUSE FOR 150 YEARS FLORIDIANS WHO HAVE BEEN CONVICTED OF A FELONY WERE BARRED FROM VOTING IN THE STATE’S CONSTITUTION.
Patrick Berry: Florida has a very long history of suppressing the vote of Black and Brown voters. After reconstruction, Florida passed several different types of laws to try to suppress voting rights, including literacy and residency tests, a poll tax, the white primary, and then also a permanent ban for anyone convicted of a felony.
YVONNE LATTY: PATRICK BERRY IS A LAWYER WITH THE BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE. HE WORKS IN THE DEMOCRACY PROGRAM WITH A FOCUS ON VOTER RIGHTS RESTORATION.
Patrick Berry: In 2001, the state removed thousands of voters, over 40% of whom were Black from the voter rolls because they wrongly thought that they had been convicted of a felony.
YVONNE LATTY: BERRY HAS BEEN MONITORING FLORIDA’S ELECTION PRACTICES.
Patrick Berry: In response to Black voters using early voting at high rates in 2008, the Florida legislature passed a law limiting early voting. They also eliminated the ability to vote on the Sunday before Election Day, a day that Black churches normally go to the polls.
YVONNE LATTY: THE ONLY OPTION AVAILABLE TO RETURNING CITIZENS IS TO RESTORE THEIR RIGHT TO VOTE THROUGH CLEMENCY HEARINGS AND THE EVENTUAL APPROVAL FROM THE GOVERNOR. IN FLORIDA, THIS HAS OFTEN BEEN A SLOW AND POLITICIZED PROCESS ONLY GRANTING A FEW HUNDRED PEOPLE A YEAR THEIR RESTORED RIGHT TO VOTE.
News anchor: This is a part of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition statewide voting rights bus tour.
FRRC rally: Hey, hey, what do you say? Let our people vote today.
News anchor: An enthusiastic crowd prepares to hit the streets to make a difference.
YVONNE LATTY: FOR DECADES, THERE HAS BEEN A BIG PUSH FOR RESTORING VOTING RIGHTS IN FLORIDA. BUT FRRC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND VOTING RIGHTS ICON DESMOND MEADE CHAMPIONED AMENDMENT 4, WHICH OFFERED A NEW PATH TO RESTORE VOTING RIGHTS TO RETURNING CITIZENS.
Desmond Meade: My mother was alive, she would have told me, too, that “Are you crazy? You know that they would think that you could even get something like restoring voting rights to people formerly convicted of a felony on the ballot, much less pass it in a state that you are living in? In these political times? What are you doing? What are you thinking?” You know, but we were able to do that.
YVONNE LATTY: HUNDREDS OF VOLUNTEERS JOINED THE FIGHT AND MILLIONS IN CONTRIBUTIONS FROM LEGAL ADVOCACY GROUPS INCLUDING THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER, THE ACLU, THE NAACP, AND OTHERS FLOWED IN.
Desmond Meade: We were able to bring together people. I tell folks that on election night, over 5.1 million people voted yes on Amendment 4. That was a million more people than people who voted for the governor. At least a million people who voted for Amendment 4 were Republicans.
News anchor: Today the state of Florida made history as more than a million people regained their right to vote.
YVONNE LATTY: AND ON NOV. 9, 2018, 65% OF FLORIDIANS VOTED TO RESTORE ELECTORAL RIGHTS TO THEIR RETURNING CITIZENS. THE BIPARTISAN EFFORT WAS A MASSIVE WIN FOR THE 1.5 MILLION FLORIDIANS WHO INSTANTLY BECAME ELIGIBLE TO VOTE. IT WAS THE LARGEST EXPANSION OF VOTING RIGHT SINCE THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965.
News anchor: Politically, when you think about this 13 million people are eligible to vote in Florida, you add 1.5 million to the rolls, that would be rather interesting heading into the presidential election of 2020.
YVONNE LATTY: THE VERY NEXT DAY, FRCC MEMBERS AND VOTING RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS BEGAN SCRAMBLING TO REGISTER RETURNING CITIZENS. IT WAS A MOMENT OF SWEET VICTORY AND JUBILEE.
Desmond Meade: Those 5.1 million votes they weren’t based on hate and weren’t based on fear, but rather those votes was based on love, forgiveness and redemption. People from different political persuasions, different races, ethnicities, can actually come together and agree on something and make something happen. And we did it without the aid of politicians.
Rosemary McCoy: I was excited, because now I felt that I was part of the civilization of the United States of America. I felt that I had a power and I was able, like I was part of the community
JAMILA PAKSIMA: NOW 10% OF THE VOTING POPULATION OF FLORIDA COULD VOTE IN THE PURPLE STATE NOTORIOUS FOR TIGHT RACES. THIS POWERFUL VOTING BLOC COULD ALTER BOTH FEDERAL AND STATE WIDE ELECTIONS. FRRC AND OTHER GRASSROOTS GROUPS TURNED ON THEIR GET-OUT-THE-VOTE CAMPAIGNS. JUST AS RAPIDLY, FLORIDA’S GOVERNOR RESPONDED. THIS IS NANCY ABUDU.
Nancy Abudu: As soon as the ballot initiative was passed, Gov. DeSantis and members of the Legislature announced that they would do everything possible to make it essentially null and void.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: ONLY SIX MONTHS AFTER AMENDMENT 4 WAS PASSED AND 12,600 RETURNING CITIZENS AND MOSTLY DEMOCRATS REGISTERED TO VOTE, THINGS CHANGED. THE RIGHT TO VOTE WAS YANKED AWAY FROM HALF OF THE RETURNING CITIZENS BECAUSE OF A PROPOSED NEW FLORIDA LAW, SB 7066.
Nancy Abudu: The Florida Legislature, in our view, rewrote the law to expand the definition of completion of sentence to include payment of legal financial obligations.
YVONNE LATTY: ABUDU IS SPLC’S INTERIM STRATEGIC LITIGATION ATTORNEY. SHE IS LEADING A LAWSUIT AGAINST FLORIDA ON BEHALF OF ROSEMARY MCCOY AND ANOTHER PLAINTIFF, SHEILA SINGLETON. TOGETHER, THEY ARE SUING THE GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA, RON DESANTIS.
Nancy Abudu: We challenged that law in federal court as a form of wealth-based discrimination under the 14th Amendment, as well as because of the lack of due process that Florida accorded individuals when it came to even understanding what they owe, who they owe and how they could pay it off. There was a lot of ambiguity around how that law would even be enforced.
YVONNE LATTY: DESMOND MEADE AND VOTING RIGHTS ADVOCATES WERE SHAKEN BY THE INJUSTICE.
Desmond Meade: We went from a loving moment and a unifying moment in the state of Florida, to a divisive, fearful, uncertain, confusing moment. That was very disheartening, and that was the biggest disappointment and the Legislature knew this, that you’re assessing fines and fees to people who realistically would not be able to pay that.
YVONNE LATTY: THE BOTTOM LINE IS: NOW RETURNING CITIZENS WERE REQUIRED TO PAY ALL FINES, FEES AND RESTITUTION TO HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE. THE CHANGE IMPACTED 775,000 OF THOSE RETURNING CITIZEN VOTERS BECAUSE THEY HAD DEBT AND COULD NOT PAY IT OFF. THIS WAS A BLOW TO ROSEMARY. SHE HAD REGISTERED TO VOTE IN FEBRUARY 2019. SHE VOTED IN A MUNICIPAL ELECTION BUT NOW SHE COULDN’T VOTE BECAUSE SHE DOES NOT HAVE THE MEANS TO PAY THE $7,500 IN BACK FINES AND FEES THE STATE CLAIMS SHE OWES.
Rosemary McCoy: It’s the 24th Amendment and it says that we should not be denied our right to vote because of a poll tax or any other tax, and we are looking at this as a tax because number one, you continue to add interest, the court costs and fees, they use it to better the government. You cannot disenfranchise us from voting for the president of the United States and our federal Congress.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: MCCOY SAYS SB7066 IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
Rosemary McCoy: My name is Rosemary McCoy, I am co-founder of Harriett Tubman Freedom Fighters. I also do work with Florida Rising and I also volunteer at several different nonprofit organizations like Duvall Legal Aid, ACLU.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: MCCOY SAYS THIS VOTING RIGHTS BILL IS A MODERN-DAY VERSION OF KEEPING THEIR COMMUNITY ENSLAVED.
Rosemary McCoy: Voting is their way out of the pits that we have been placed in. So if you vote, then you can have basically jobs, because one of the things that we are deprived of is decent, livable wages.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: 64-YEAR-OLD MCCOY IS CO-FOUNDER OF THE HARRIET TUBMAN FREEDOM FIGHTERS, WHICH SHE RUNS WITH 53-YEAR-OLD SHEILA SINGLETON. THEY STARTED THE ORGANIZATION TO FREE THEIR FELLOW RETURNING CITIZEN VOTERS JUST LIKE TUBMAN, WHO WAS DETERMINED TO FREE SLAVES.
Nancy Abudu: They represented individuals who often find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system. Women, African-American, lacking the financial resources in order to pay off these financial obligations and then found themselves completely shut out of the political process. These women and thousands of other women have been systematically excluded, which not only erodes their individual political representation, but also the political representation of the communities from where they come.
Rosemary McCoy: I owe approximately $7,000, which will continue to accrue, which I do not have $7,000 to pay at one time.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: FLORIDA HAS A VERY COMPLEX AND SILOED SYSTEM OF TRACKING THESE FEES BY COUNTY INSTEAD OF A SINGLE STATEWIDE DATABASE. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE RETURNING CITIZEN TO FIND EVERY FINE IN EVERY COUNTY ACROSS THE STATE RELATED TO THEIR CONVICTION. SOME COUNTIES NEVER KEPT TRACK OF WHO PAID AND WHO HASN’T. SHEILA OWES $16,000, AND ROSEMARY OWES MORE THAN $7,500, WHICH COMPOUND EVERY DAY.
Rosemary McCoy: So we’re just trying to figure out how do you expect returning citizens to pay this debt and also work at minimum wage and maintain a household? How do they expect that to occur?
JAMILA PAKSIMA: SHEILA AND ROSEMARY MET HELPING PEOPLE REGISTER TO VOTE IN JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA IN 2018. THEY ALSO WORKED FOR FRRC AS VOLUNTEERS. THEY SAY THEY’VE BOTH HAD HUGE CHALLENGES FINDING GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT BECAUSE OF THEIR CRIMINAL STATUS AS RETURNING CITIZENS.
Rosemary McCoy: We can get a job sweeping up someone’s floor where we might have college degrees or licenses, like Sheila has a nursing license. I have my real estate broker’s license, so it’s hard for us to get a license and a majority of the time a license is what’s going to help you make the most money.
Sheila Singleton: We won’t have to work two jobs in order to make ends meet. Our children will have proper day care. The things that we need to survive and to live and with the minimum wage the way it is, that’s impossible. And we want to be on the playing field too.
Desmond Meade: No citizen in this country should ever be forced to choose between putting food on their plate or any of their kid’s plates or voting. They shouldn’t be forced to choose between paying their rent, their mortgage or their electric bill or voting. That voting should be free and accessible.
YVONNE LATTY: THE BRENNAN CENTER, ALONG WITH 30 OTHER ORGANIZATIONS, DID TRY TO BLOCK THE BILL WITH A LAWSUIT WHICH CONSOLIDATED FIVE DIFFERENT CASES OF INDIVIDUALS SUING GOV. DESANTIS INCLUDING ROSEMARY MCCOY AND SHEILA SINGLETON’S CASE BEFORE THIS LAW WENT INTO EFFECT. BUT ON SEPT. 11, 2020, THEY LOST THE CASE IN THE 11th CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS.
Patrick Berry: Even though the majority of Floridians who owe legal financial obligations can’t afford to pay. We sued to block Florida’s pay to vote law with other civil rights groups. But unfortunately, the law was upheld by the 11th Circuit.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THE OTHER PROBLEM, SAYS BERRY, IS WITH HOW FLORIDA STATE FUNDS ITS LEGAL SYSTEM. BECAUSE THE STATE CONSTITUTION PROHIBITS COLLECTING INCOME TAX, THE ENTIRE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN FLORIDA IS FUNDED BY COURT FEES AND FINES AND RESTITUTION.
Patrick Berry: Courts are required by the state constitution to primarily fund themselves through court costs and fees. You know, that makes legal financial obligations an essential part of the state’s taxation system. And so Florida just has, you know, an unfortunate system where the State Legislature is imposing taxes on marginalized communities while at the same time prohibiting them from being able to participate in the political process.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: WITH THE 2020 ELECTION JUST MONTHS AWAY FRRC DECIDED TO RAISE THE FUNDS, OR AS MEADE OF FRRC LIKES TO CALL IT “RANSOM MONEY” FOR KEEPING RETURNING CITIZENS VOTES HOSTAGE.
Desmond Meade: And so now that you tax the payment of fines of fees to being able to vote, that’s the hostage situation. And you’re holding them for ransom.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: DONATIONS STARTED POURING INTO THE ORGANIZATION. THE STRATEGY WAS SIMPLE. PAY OFF AS MANY FINES AND FEES AS POSSIBLE, AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, SO MORE PEOPLE CAN LAWFULLY GET TO THE POLLS AND VOTE.
Desmond Meade: Over 90,000 people across this country donated to our fines and fees fund, and we were able to raise quite a bit of money and pay out those monies to the different clerk courts.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: DAVID AYALA RECALLS ONE OF THE FIRST LARGE DONATIONS WHICH CAME INTO HIS OFFICE AT THE FORMERLY INCARCERATED CONVICTED PEOPLE AND FAMILIES MOVEMENT.
David Ayala: Thanks to the Jordan brand, as well as Michael Jordan himself, donated $1 million to us. And we were able to take half a million dollars of that and funnel it through Florida Rights Restoration Coalition into Florida and pay off fines and fees.
YVONNE LATTY: LEBRON JAMES CONTRIBUTED $100,000, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG RAISED AND DONATED $16 MILLION.
Desmond Meade: We raised over $27 million. Oh my God, that was just a beautiful moment.
John Legend: It is so beautiful to see that real people who are affected by this law…
JAMILA PAKSIMA: JOHN LEGEND, WHO HAS MADE RESTORING RIGHTS A PRIORITY AND STARTED FREE AMERICA, CAME TO FLORIDA AND SAT WITH FRRC LEADERS IN A MIAMI DADE COURTROOM TO WITNESS 20 INDIVIDUALS VOTING RIGHTS BE RESTORED.
Judge: It is a day that we celebrate democracy.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: MARQUIS ORGANIZED TEAMS TO IDENTIFY PEOPLE TO HELP WITH THESE FINANCIAL BARRIERS. AND AT ONE POINT FRRC SIMPLY STARTED ANONYMOUSLY COVERING THESE LEGAL AND FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS.
Marquis McKenzie: At one point, we had to just go in and get this stuff paid. People that didn’t even know, like, they had to make their monthly payments, and they would go and they was told you don’t have a balance anymore. It was like what? And, you know, it was just heartbreaking. People crying and realizing that because they want to vote.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THE EFFORT CLEARED THE DEBT OF 13,000 RETURNING CITIZENS.
Marquis McKenzie: It’s more people that are non-Black and are considered white that have more felony convictions. So it’s crazy, because we had to educate people in the community. It was like, oh, this is you know, it’s a Black thing this and that. No, it wasn’t. But, you know, we’re nonpartisan. So it wasn’t about Republican or Democrat. It affect more people who are white, who possibly could be, you know, of a certain type of race.
YVONNE LATTY: UTLIMATELY 27 MILLION WAS RAISED TO PAY FINES AND FEES, BUT THE OUTCOME WAS DISAPPOINTING. ONLY 101,000 RETURNING CITIZENS VOTED ON ELECTION DAY. A NUMBER MANY SAY SHOULD HAVE BEEN HIGHER.
David Ayala: Voting is completely tied to education. The more educated a person is, the more likely they are to vote. Like I said, I was a product of the school-to-prison pipeline, and it took me years to really get back to a place where I’ve been able to recuperate.
Aramis Ayala: There were prosecutors who were making public statements that if you vote and you were truly not eligible, letting them know that, here’s what we’re going to do to you. That it’s going to be an additional crime. You have intimidation in addition to lack of education, in addition to all the other issues that make people more apathetic when it comes to engaging in voting.
YVONNE LATTY: FLORIDA ACCOUNTS FOR 27% OF ALL DISENFRANCHISED VOTERS. UNTIL 2019, 1.5 MILLION PEOPLE HAD LOST THE RIGHT TO VOTE AFTER RELEASE FROM PRISON. FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT SUPPRESSES THE VOTE OF ONE IN FIVE BLACK FLORIDIANS, WHO OVERWHELMINGLY VOTE DEMOCRATIC. AND THE REASON THIS MATTERS? IN 2016, DONALD TRUMP WON FLORIDA BY A MERE 112,911 VOTES. IN 2020, TRUMP WON FLORIDA BY 370,000 VOTES. FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT MAY HAVE COST THE DEMOCRATS FLORIDA TWO ELECTION CYCLES IN A ROW.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: IN THE 2020 ELECTION, THERE WAS RECORD VOTER TURNOUT IN FLORIDA LIKE MANY OTHER STATES. IT WAS HUGELY SUCCESSFUL FOR ALL VOTERS, NOT JUST POOR, BLACK AND LATINO VOTERS WHO INCREASED THEIR USE OF DROP BOXES. DESPITE OUTLANDISH CLAIMS OF A” BIG LIE” FROM THE GOP AND TRUMP, THERE WAS ZERO EVIDENCE OF VOTER FRAUD IN FLORIDA.
Donald Trump: We will never concede. You don’t concede when there is theft involved.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: ON JAN 6, 2021, A HOSTILE AND DEFIANT PRESIDENT TRUMP, UNWILLING TO ACCEPT HE HAD LOST THE ELECTION TO JOE BIDEN, SPELLED OUT HIS PLAN OF ATTACK ON AMERICAN VOTERS MOMENTS BEFORE HE INCITED HIS SUPPORTERS TO STORM THE CAPITOL.
Donald Trump: With your help, we will finally pass powerful requirements for voter ID. Every person should need to show an ID in order to cast your most important thing, a vote. We will also require proof of American citizenship. We will ban ballot harvesting. We will stop the practice of universal unsolicited mail-in balloting.
YVONNE LATTY: EVEN BEFORE THIS DAY, REPUBLICAN OPERATIVES AND LOBBY GROUPS HAVE BEEN WORKING TO DISMANTLE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL VOTER TURNOUT IN AMERICAN HISTORY. IN THE SWING STATE OF FLORIDA, 77% OF ALL REGISTERED VOTERS TURNED OUT TO VOTE. TRUMP EARNED 51% OF THE VOTE. COPYCAT BILLS BEGAN SWEEPING THE COUNTRY FUELING THE FALSE NARRATIVE DRIVEN BY FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP THAT HIS LOSS WAS ALL PART OF A BIG LIE.
Jessica Anderson: These are the two bills that we’re moving through in Florida, HB 7041 and SB 90.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: REMEMBER JESSICA ANDERSON OF THE FAR RIGHT AMERICAN HERITAGE ACTION FUND FROM OUR EPISODE ON GEORGIA VOTING RIGHTS?
Jessica Anderson: I’ve got a call this afternoon with Gov. Desantis’ team getting an update.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: SHE WAS CAPTURED ON TAPE BY THE WATCHDOG GROUP DOCUMENTED AT A NATIONAL MEETING IN APRIL OF 2021 IN ARIZONA DECLARING THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION HAD ITS EYE ON FLORIDA.
Jessica Anderson: He needs to do more. He needs to say, get this bill on my desk.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: ANDERSON SAID SHE WAS PUSHING FLORIDA’S GOV. RON DESANTIS TO CONSIDER THE HERITAGE FUND VOTING RIGHTS PROVISIONS.
Jessica Anderson: This is our shot to get it done in Florida. We will not be deterred. That is the message to take. We’re doing it in these additional battleground states and then taking this message, every other state that will have us.
YVONNE LATTY: WITHIN DAYS OF THE HERITAGE FUND MEETING, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS MOVED SWIFTLY TO MAKE IT HARDER TO VOTE BY MAIL. THERE ARE NOW 63 LEGAL CASES TRUMP AND HIS ALLIES, HAVE RAISED CHALLENGING STATES ALLEGING ELECTION FRAUD, NONE FOUND ANY FRAUD AND CURIOUSLY, NONE WERE FILED IN TRUMP’S NEW FOUND HOME STATE OF FLORIDA.
Ron Desantis: Right now, I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country. I’m actually going to sign it right here, it’s going to take effect.
YVONNE LATTY: ON MAY 6, 2021, FLORIDA GOV. DESANTIS EXCLUSIVELY INVITED FOX NEWS WITH A PRIVATE CROWD IN ATTENDANCE TO JOIN HIM LIVE AS HE SIGNED NEW VOTING BILL SB90.
Ron Desantis: We’re making sure we’re enforcing voter ID. We’re also banning ballot harvesting.
YVONNE LATTY: BECAUSE THE HARRIET TUBMAN FREEDOM FIGHTERS AND FRRC REGISTER PEOPLE TO VOTE, THE NEW LAW MAKES THAT MUCH MORE COMPLICATED, BY NOT GUARANTEEING THEIR EFFORTS WILL GET THESE VOTERS ON THE ROLLS. HERE’S NANCY ABUDU AGAIN EXPLAINING WHY THE HARRIET TUBMAN FREEDOM FIGHTERS ARE SUING THE FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE AND ATTORNEY GENERAL OVER SB 90.
Nancy Abudu: So you can imagine that if you encouraging someone to fill out a form that maybe they wouldn’t have filled out if you hadn’t approached them, you turn around and you tell them that there’s a possibility you might not turn that form in that person is going to be less likely to register with you. And that’s what the law does. It essentially discourages voters from participating or engaging with third-party voter registration groups, but it also renders the work that Rosemary and Sheila are doing extremely difficult.
Yvonne Latty: Where is the SPLC case now with McCoy and Singleton?
Nancy Abudu: We’re in what’s called the discovery phase, that’s basically the evidence-gathering phase. And we are hoping that we’ll wrap that up within the next couple of weeks and maybe even go to trial at the end of this year or early next year.
YVONNE LATTY: BOTH WOMEN SAY THEY INTEND TO ENCOURAGE MORE VOTING FOR THEIR COMMUNITY UNTIL THEY CAN LAWFULLY COMPLETE THEIR OWN BALLOTS.
Rosemary McCoy: I would like returning citizens to understand, number one, we are free. We are no longer in chains. We have a voice. No one knows our situation or what it is that we need except for us, because there are barriers that have been placed before us and traps that’s out there to stop us from moving forward. So they need to understand that voting is their way out of the pits that we have been placed in.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: IN FLORIDA, THE VOTING RIGHTS ADVOCATES NOW SAY THEY ARE EQUALLY CONCERNED ABOUT GERRYMANDERING. THIS IS THE DELIBERATE MANIPULATION OF DISTRICT LINES TO ULTIMATELY ADVANCE A POLITICAL MOTIVE. IT IS OFTEN DONE THROUGH PARTISAN GERRYMANDERING, RACIAL GERRYMANDERING, PRISON-BASED GERRYMANDERING, OR A VIOLATION OF THE “ONE PERSON/ONE VOTE” PRINCIPLE.
YVONNE LATTY: IT HAPPENS AT LEAST EVERY 10 YEARS BECAUSE OF POPULATION CHANGES BASED ON CENSUS RESULTS. FLORIDA HAS TWO TYPES OF GERRYMANDERING ISSUES IN PLAY. FIRST, THERE HAS BEEN SIGNIFICANT POPULATION GROWTH OF 2.7 MILLION, WHICH MEANS AN ADDITIONAL CONGRESSIONAL SEAT FOR NEW VOTERS AND A GUARANTEE DISTRICT LINES WILL BE REDRAWN IN TIME FOR THE 2022 ELECTION.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: PRISON GERRYMANDERING IMPACTS HOW PRISONERS ARE COUNTED AND WHICH DISTRICT THEIR REPRESENTATIVES COME FROM. WHEN IT COMES TO GERRYMANDERING, MEADE AND THE AYALA’S ARE CONCERNED ABOUT FAIR REPRESENTATION. AND HOW MARGINALIZED INCARCERATED INDIVIDUALS WON’T BE GETTING REPRESENTATION FOR THE COMMUNITIES THEY LIVED IN OR PLAN TO RETURN TO.
David Ayala: I mean during the Census, you could have been just driving through somewhere and got locked up in a county jail or you were in state prison. You got counted there.
YVONNE LATTY: PRISON GERRYMANDERING IS COMPLICATED AND CAN MESS WITH WHO YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE IS FOR A DECADE OR MORE.
David Ayala: For example, if a person is from Miami, from Dade County, and they got arrested, they are doing some time somewhere else, but they’re going back to Dade County, they should be counted in their county because that’s where they will be. But to be counted in a prison where you’re there for six months, a year, and now that Census counts you there for the remaining 10 years, you’re having representation there and getting funded because you were counted there. I think it’s very unfair.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: MEADE OF FRRC SAYS PRISON POPULATIONS HELP INFLATE COUNTY POPULATION HEADCOUNTS.
Desmond Meade: And so what happens is, the numbers of the population for those counties are inflated by the population of the people who are in prison.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THE MAIN ARGUMENT AGAINST IT IS THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE INCARCERATED HAVE NO REPRESENTATION WHATSOEVER. THEY CAN’T VOTE, ELECTED OFFICIALS DO NOT ACTIVELY ENGAGE THEM ON POLITICAL ISSUES, AND THEY ESSENTIALLY HAVE NO POLITICAL VOICE. SOME SAY IT IS NO ACCIDENT THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX IN FLORIDA BUILT SOME OF THEIR LARGEST FACILITIES AND JAILS IN PREDOMINANTLY WHITE COUNTIES.
Desmond Meade: Which now unfairly gives their county more resources and even more representation in Congress.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: IT IS THESE CONTINUED ISSUES OF LACK OF FAIR REPRESENTATION WHICH INSPIRED STATE PROSECUTOR ARAMIS AYALA TO RUN FOR CONGRESS IN 2022.
Jamila Paksima: So what is the GOP fearful of in Florida?
Aramis Ayala: That’s where you look and see that our democracy is truly in a bad place and being threatened, when you have to manipulate and lie and misrepresent. And the result of those lies cause more Black, Brown and poor people their access to engage and really truly be an American.
YVONNE LATTY: BERRY OF THE BRENNAN CENTER SAYS MUCH OF THIS DEBATE AND CONTROVERSY COULD BE ADDRESSED BY THE NEW DEMOCRATIC REFORM BILL INTRODUCED IN THE SENATE CALLED THE FREEDOM TO VOTE ACT.
Patrick Berry: It would set national standards to protect the right to vote. It would also end partisan gerrymandering. It would fix our broken campaign finance system. And it would also create new safeguards against election subversion. And if enacted, the Freedom to Vote Act would address many of the restrictive provisions in Florida’s SB 90, as well as many other restrictions on voting that we’ve seen enacted this year. Most notably, the Freedom to Vote Act would also restore voting rights to everyone who’s living in the community in federal elections, regardless of past convictions.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: ABUDU OF SPLC SAYS PERHAPS THE FASTEST SOLUTION WILL BE THE PASSING OF THE NEW VOTING RIGHTS ADVANCEMENT ACT, WHICH WAS INTRODUCED TO THE SENATE IN THE FALL OF 2021.
Nancy Abudu: So the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would, number one, make sure that a state like Florida that not only has a history of discriminating against people in the area of voting rights, but currently is engaging in that kind of discrimination that Florida would be required to seek federal approval before it makes any changes to its voting laws. And that approval would include an analysis of what would be the negative consequence of a voting change, particularly on communities of color. So it’s a form of federal protection that’s absolutely necessary, given the current political landscape that again targets people of color when it comes to exercising their right to vote.
YVONNE LATTY: AS HARD AS THE CHALLENGES HAVE BEEN THERE HAVE BEEN GAINS. DESMOND MEADE, DAVID AYALA, MARQUIS MCKENZIE AND OTHERS DID GET TO VOTE IN THE 2020 ELECTION AND THEY INTEND TO CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR ALL THE OTHER RETURNING CITIZENS.
Marquis McKenzie: So what we’ve been doing is on a goal trying to, you know, create modification programs throughout the state. And if we’re going to continue to fund raise or we’re going to continue to try to find, you know, clerks or courts, they’ll want to help us make these programs and help these people get back into society.
Jamila Paksima: It’s good to see you.
Marquis McKenzie: Same to you.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: I’M IN MIAMI TO MEET MARQUIS MCKENZIE, WHO STILL TODAY WORKS FOR FRRC.
Jamila Paksima: This big red bus, free-the-vote tour.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: I KNOW I AM IN THE RIGHT SPOT BECAUSE I SEE THE FAMOUS RED FRRC BUS, WHICH HAS BEEN TRAVELING THE STATE FOR TWO YEARS REGISTERING RETURNING CITIZENS.
Marquis McKenzie: The bus is what I call it, is a driving billboard.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: IT’S HARD TO MISS. THE BUS IS BRIGHT RED AND THERE IS A HUGE IMAGE OF DESMOND MEADE ON ONE SIDE. MARQUIS SHOWS ME WHERE HIS IMAGE SITS ON THE VINYL-WRAPPED VOTING MOBILE.
Jamila Paksima: Are you on the bus?
Marquis McKenzie: Yep. I am on the bus.
Jamila Paksima: Show me where you are.
Marquis McKenzie: Right there.
Jamila Paksima: There you are. Excellent.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: MARQUIS IS IN TOWN TO ATTEND THE ROLLING LOUD HIP-HOP CONCERT, WHERE FOR THREE CONSECUTIVE NIGHTS, 75,000 PEOPLE WILL BE CRAMMED IN INTO THE HARD ROCK STADIUM. MARQUIS AND 10 FRRC MEMBERS WILL BE THERE TO TALK ABOUT VOTING RIGHTS AND TO HELP RETURNING CITIZENS REGISTER AND FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HOW TO PAY OFF THEIR FINES AND FEES SO THEY CAN VOTE.
Marquis McKenzie: We all believe that that was because of the work that we did by making sure that they loved one was able to vote because they loved one, turn around and say, “Hey, y’all need to go vote too, you know,” and it was a very high increase. And it is what we call it close the gap. Now the conversation has to be different. Now you have to talk about housing. You have to talk about jobs, because we’re showing up at the poll more than your own constituents are doing it. So we’re putting in the work now.
Rosemary McCoy: Part of our vision is to make the American dream a reality for all people, and that is where voting will be the norm. That’s democracy. And democracy is freedom. And we want to be able to vote so we could get the proper protection that we need. We want our people to be free, indeed.
YVONNE LATTY: THE 11TH CIRCUIT RECENTLY REJECTED ROSEMARY AND SHEILA’S ADDITIONAL LEGAL CHALLENGE TO THE LAW AS HAVING A DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT ON WOMEN OF COLOR.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: FOR MARQUIS, THE WORK OF CLEANING UP RECORDS AND CANVASSING NEIGHBORHOODS CONTINUES.
Marquis McKenzie: From my understanding, we had an increase in, I want to say, over a 5% increase in voting alone in the state. And a lot of those was because it was incarcerated people, directly impacted people. It was a very high increase. It’s like, “All right, what ch’all want to talk about now?”
YVONNE LATTY: WHAT CONTINUES TO BE FOUGHT FOR IN FLORIDA HAS HAD AN IMPACTED NATIONWIDE. VOTING IS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE DESPITE THE BARRIERS. NATIONWIDE 5.2 MILLION RETURNING AMERICAN CITIZENS WERE NOT ELIGIBLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE 2020 ELECTION. BUT DAVID AYALA SAYS CHANGE IS HAPPENING.
David Ayala: A North Carolina judge ruled that formerly incarcerated people are able to vote even while they are on parole and probation. In California, we passed in 2020 and was able to pass Prop 17. We’re now fifty thousand people who are on parole in California are able to vote even while on parole. So we’re just looking to move the needle forward.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: AND THEN THERE IS DESMOND MEADE AND HIS MISSION TO CHANGE THE WAY WE ALL VOTE AND TREAT RETURNING CITIZENS.
Desmond Meade: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I believe that that applies to our society as well, that if we really want to be a greater community, a greater state, a greater country, that greatness is intimately tied to how much we can strengthen the people in our community that has been the most weakened by systems of oppression, discrimination, racism and the narrative that says that some lives are less valuable than others.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: MEADE, WHO HAS A LAW DEGREE, STILL CANNOT SIT TO TAKE A BAR EXAM BECAUSE HE HAS A FELONY CONVICTION RECORD. DESPITE ALL HE HAS DONE, GOV. DESANTIS HASN’T GRANTED HIM CLEMENCY. BUT IN OCTOBER OF 2021, MEADE WON THE PRESTIGIOUS MACARTHUR GENIUS AWARD. WHAT TOUCHED HIM EVEN MORE THAN THE NEWS WAS THE ASTONISHMENT THAT HE WAS NOT THE ONLY RETURNING CITIZEN SELECTED.
Desmond Meade: And the biggest thing was, was that there were two people and that was me and Reginald Dwayne Betts, who’s an attorney and a poet. I still haven’t got my rights restored. I still haven’t gotten a pardon, there’s a lot of places where I still can’t own or even rent the home. And so if I’ve done all of this and still can’t have a clear unencumbered access right to pursue life, liberty and happiness, maybe I got to win the Nobel Peace Prize. And maybe I can get some of these barriers knocked down. No, no one should have to do the things that I’ve done to be considered worthy of redemption.
Justice John Roberts: We will hear argument this morning, Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia.
YVONNE LATTY: NEXT ON PART ONE OF OUR STORY, FOSTERING HATE. AN EPIC BATTLE IN THE SUPREME COURT BETWEEN THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA AND THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT.
Lou GrowMiller: The worst case is that kids will not have a safe place to go.
Samantha Bannon: So I walked into the building, and said, “I think I should tell you that we are a two-mom family.” At that point, the temperature in the room changed.
YVONNE LATTY: AND HOW THE DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICES OF FOSTER PLACEMENT AGENCIES AND STATE LAWS ARE IMPACTING THE LIVES OF FOSTER CHILDREN AND THE RIGHTS OF PROSPECTIVE LGBTQ FOSTER PARENTS.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THESE ARE COMPLICATED STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE WHO FIGHT FOR THEIR TRUTH. THOSE WHO ARE DEMANDING AFFIRMING POLICIES WHICH WILL NOT ROB CHILDREN OF THEIR POWER, NOR STRIP ANY AMERICAN OF HAVING EQUAL ACCESS, INFLUENCE, PROTECTIONS, AND VOTING RIGHTS.
YVONNE LATTY: IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED A HATE INCIDENT OR CRIME, PLEASE CONTACT THE APPROPRIATE LOCAL AUTHORITIES OR ELECTED OFFICIALS. YOU CAN ALSO DOCUMENT WHAT HAPPENED AT SPLCENTER.ORG.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THIS IS SOUNDS LIKE HATE, AN INDEPENDENT AUDIO DOCUMENTARY BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER. PRODUCED BY UNTIL 20 PRODUCTIONS. I’M JAMILA PAKSIMA.
YVONNE LATTY: AND I’M YVONNE LATTY. REMEMBER TO SUBSCRIBE TO FIND OUT WHEN NEW EPISODES ARE RELEASED. PLEASE RATE AND REVIEW. IT REALLY HELPS. AND THANKS FOR LISTENING.