Florida voters will soon have the chance to abolish the state’s archaic, unconstitutional civil rights restoration process

Restorative measures

Sheena Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
Sheena Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Photo by Joey Roulette

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“My life has been transformed through my faith, and what I see is that God constantly uses underdogs and people who are hurting and broken to do amazing things. I think this movement reflects that.” – Neil Volz

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Neil Volz

Neil Volz gained success quickly after graduating from Ohio State University. A chance opportunity with a congressional candidate catapulted him from Ohio to Washington, D.C., where he went from press secretary to chief of staff and, eventually, staff director for a legislative committee. But the quick success drove him to greed, he thinks now: “Ultimately I ended up crossing these ethical lines that I shouldn’t have.” In 2006, he was charged with felony fraud. He was ordered to pay a fine and work court-sanctioned community service hours. Though he did not serve time in prison, he says the stigma of the label – ex-felon – weighed him down.

"I became radioactive; I could not find a job anywhere. I went from being somebody people looked up to and admired to somebody nobody wanted to associate with," Volz says.

He began volunteering at a local homeless shelter in D.C. and, before long, got hired as staff. He is currently chairman of the Lee County Homeless Coalition in Fort Myers and continues his work with alcohol and drug recovery programs.

As a petition signature gatherer for the voting rights restoration ballot initiative, Volz met hundreds of people from all walks of life. Some of his most memorable moments were circulating petitions at campaign rallies for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

"It isn't very often that you don't find somebody who – if it's not them, it's their family member. It's somebody that they know." Volz is quick to say that voting rights restoration isn't a political issue but, rather, a "people issue" that crosses party lines. If he could vote, he says he would vote Republican.

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