By Rudabeh Shahbazi


MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Singer John Legend was on hand Friday in a Miami-Dade courtroom to help celebrate the restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals in Florida.

Legend, a longtime advocate of criminal justice reformed, attended a special court hearing in Miami for about 20 people with felony convictions, who are going through the process of restoring their right to vote under Florida’s Amendment 4.

Legend attended the hearing to demonstrate how former prisoners who served their time can get a court order, which waives court fees and allows them to vote.

The process was developed by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office, the Office of the Miami-Dade Public Defender, and the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts.

“Becoming part of the community again reduces their odds of coming back into the system,” explained Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle.

Fernandez-Rundle took part, she said, to show everyone how easy it could be for the majority of citizens who have served their time to register to vote.

Last year, Florida voters passed Amendment 4.

Until then, Florida was one of only four states that did not automatically allow returning citizens to get their voting rights restored. Still, the process of implementing the law is not always simple and straightforward.

Miami-Dade County is the first in the state to design and implement this type of a process.

“This is a good day, not just for those of you who are getting the right to vote restored, but it’s a day that we celebrate democracy, a day that we celebrate what it means to be an American,” said Circuit Judge Nushin Sayfie.

After the hearing, the participants had the chance to register to vote.

“Thank you, it’s a proud day for me and my father, born in Haiti, he’s 85 years old, to see me get my rights back,” said one woman.

Singer John Legend attended Miami-Dade Court hearing of restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals as part of Amendment 4. (Miami Herald)

John Legend has made restoring rights for formally incarcerated Americans a priority, founding “Free America,” a campaign to transform America’s criminal justice system.

It is a fight these citizens, who have made mistakes and served their time, are grateful for.

“I just want to say thank you so much your honor, for getting my life back and I can be part of society. Today’s a good day for me.

“It’s so beautiful to see real people affected by this law are so happy to vote, so many people take it for granted this right to vote and when you lose it I think it makes you realize how important it is and it makes you feel even more joy and accomplishment to come back,” Legend told CBS4 news  partner The Miami Herald.

The battle for the vote is still brewing.

In June, the Republican controlled legislature passed a bill that requires felons to pay off all court fees, fines and restitution before the terms of their sentences are considered complete, meaning thousands of people were suddenly no longer eligible to vote.

In October, a judge rejected it, on a limited basis but the issue is expected to go the Florida Supreme Court.

Rudabeh Shahbazi

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