Brett Ramsden is a “mover” who can’t vote because he’s an ex-felon in Florida.
In Florida’s last midterm general election in 2014, nearly half of the state’s registered voters (49 percent) chose – for whatever reason – not to come to the polls.
Meanwhile, more than a million people in Florida are legally ineligible to vote.
Now, a New York City-based filmmaker and school teacher has created a website to align the disenfranchised with disaffected voters.
Let us introduce you to a website called The Love Vote, which bills itself as a web platform for the 50 million people living in America who can’t vote.
“About one third of the people who don’t vote…have said that their vote doesn’t matter, and we’re trying to show that your vote does matter to some people,” says the site’s founder, Esther de Rothschild, 39.
She says that the idea is for the website to give people a reason to get more involved in their culture, and give others the opportunity to show that they care.
“We live in a very individualist society, and a lot of people feel that they don’t have that much to offer or that there’s not that much they can do for somebody else,” she continues. “Voting is actually something you can do for other people as well as yourself.”
In Florida, people locked out from voting include undocumented immigrants, people in the U.S. who are on Temporary Protected Status (eligible nationals of designated countries,) the underaged, and 1.5 million ex-felons who can only get their right to vote restored if their case makes it to the state Cabinet and wins approval.
The Love Vote website features “movers”- individuals who for one reason or another can’t vote. They tell their stories to move eligible voters to pledge to go to the polls in support.
One such mover is Sarasota resident Brett Ramsden, 36, who racked up a series of felonies from petty thefts due to his drug addiction years ago.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he says about the 85 people who have gone on the site to pledge to support him by voting later this year.
Ramsden is one of the million-plus Floridians shut out of the electoral process due to his criminal background. He’s been attending St. Petersburg College and volunteering with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the organization pushing for Amendment 4 that would restore the voting rights of ex-felons. The measure is on the ballot this fall, but the people who would benefit most from automatic rights restoration can’t vote for it.
“I think that the Love Vote captures the essence of the person,” says Devin Coleman, a spokesman for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. “It also has a hint of redemption and hope, and I want to see more people forward thinking when they vote and think about the possibilities of what can be, how Florida can be a durable place of love.”
Alex Lebon was living in Miami when an earthquake jolted her home country of Haiti in January of 2010. She received Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from the U.S. government and is still living in Miami. After the Trump administration announced that TPS would end for those people from Haiti, she is now staring at the reality of possibly being kicked out of the U.S. – as soon as next summer.
Lebon recently went to Washington to speak with some congressional representatives to educate them on the problems that revoking TPS can cause for people fleeing unstable situations in their home
countries. She says she’certain that many of the 98 people who have gone on to the Love Vote’s website to pledge to vote for her will be first-time voters.
“Some of them that I spoke to, they weren’t really into voting, they didn’t think that their vote mattered. It was pointless for them,”she says, adding that even those who have voted in the past but have now committed to her will be more active and share more information about the upcoming election with their friends.
Organizers with the Love Vote say once they have committed to voting for someone, they’ll be contacted when their local election is approaching to remind them of their promise.
Floridians who want to vote in the August 28 primary must register by next Monday, July 30.
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