The Power of Second Chances: Three Floridians Tell Their Stories

November 6, 2018

Right now, in the state of Florida, about 1.4 million people are barred from voting. That’s 1.4 million people who have no say in their own future,1.4 million people whose voices aren’t being heard, 1.4 million people who, no matter how much good they do in life, will never be considered full citizens by the state they call home.

Why? Because they have a conviction on their record.

We believe that when someone has completed their full sentence, then their debt is paid—punishment should not last forever. Now, thanks to the Second Chances Campaign that was launched by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), an amendment is on the ballot this November that will restore returning citizens’ eligibility to vote.

“Amendment 4 Means that I Matter”

Studies show that restoring the right to vote reduces crime and boosts the economy, but we traveled to Florida recently to find out what being able to vote would mean on a personal level to three returning citizens. They told us about the importance of Amendment 4 to them, their families, and their community.

  1. Coral Nichols

    Coral suffered an abusive childhood and left home at 19. Still haunted by the trauma, she made a number of poor decisions that landed her in jail for fraud and embezzlement. During her five-year sentence, she found her calling: helping others learn from her mistakes. “If you keep people in...poverty, whether it's physical poverty, poverty,...[or] mental poverty, oppression is oppression no matter how you look at it. So, when you start freeing people, everything about them gets free.” For Coral, a big part of that freedom is ensuring that the eligibility to vote is restored. “I think the state of Florida would see a whole new Florida evolve with Amendment 4.” Read more about Coral here.

  2. Susanne Manning

    In 1992, Susanne was sentenced to 30 years for embezzling money from her employer. She became a law clerk in prison to better help other inmates and, after 19 years, she was released for good behavior, finally free to rebuild her life. Except...not really. “Freedom can be something as simple as walking down the street without having to tell someone where you're going...It's as easy as being able to go visit my parents and help them weed their yard. Freedom can be a myriad of things, but there are still things I'm not free in. For example, I'm not free to vote.” Read more about Susanne here.

  3. Neil Volz

    Neil started working in politics because he wanted to help people. But he made some bad decisions and wound up, as he put it, blowing up his life. He let a lot of people down, so he began making amends. He volunteered to help the homeless in DC, and continued that work in Florida. He wants to give a voice to those who have been silenced. “One in ten people's voices [in Florida] are silent...The people around them are impacted by the fact that they are not engaging in the political process, their communities. By lifting that lid off their potential as a community leader, I think we're going to see so much positive change in the state of Florida.” Read more about Neil here.

We believe in second chances. We believe in a democracy that works—in Florida and all across the country. Here’s how you can help:

  • Join us in spreading the word about the Second Chances Campaign.
  • Donate to the cause.
  • Pledge to vote YES on Amendment 4.
  • And then, get out there and vote YES on Amendment 4 in November!