BY ANDREAS BUTLER
On Oct. 24, a “Free the Vote” rally was held at the New Smyrna Beach Regional Library at 1001 S. Dixie Highway.
The event consisted of free food, music, prizes, and voting at the library, which is an early voting polling site.
“It is all about people to come out and exercising their right to vote. We hope to have 200 people cast their ballots today,” commented Shyraika Morris, a coordinator of the Free the Vote event.
It was one of numerous “Free the Vote’’ marches and rallies in Florida cities on Saturday.
The event was spearheaded by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), which is at the forefront of getting ex-felons to vote and Amendment 4 passed to Florida’s Constitution during the 2018 midterm election.
According to its website, “Free The Vote” is a statewide voter mobilization that calls upon change agents, returning citizens, directly impacted family members, people of faith, and active community members to channel the energy that has sparked so much of the social unrest across our nation into positive marches to early voting sites for civic engagement.
The Florida For All Education Fund is also involved.
Amendment 4 restores voting rights to those who have completed all the criteria except for those on parole or probation, sex offenders and violent offenders.
Those returning citizens could play a huge role in voter turnout, especially with African Americans and other minority populations.
Morris emphasized, “They can make a huge impact. They can expand the electorate and give more people a voice in society. They can also bring in new voters and new types of voters.”
FRRC is helping to provide voters with rides to polling locations and with paying fines.
Florida lawmakers tried to limit the Amendment 4 law by imposing fees and fines requirement, which was struck down in court, but then upheld on appeal on Sept. 11.
The rally was unique in another way by not having any speakers.
“We just decided that we wanted people to just come out and vote,” said Morris.
The Florida Coalition of Black Participation, Black Women’s Roundtable and Black Youth Vote also were sponsors.
Food was provided by The Ice Queen Truck and Finger Licking BBQ & Wings while C-Styles Entertainment provided the music.