MIAMI – It was a day of celebration for 18 former felons who had their voting rights restored in Miami-Dade County on Friday.
The county's program is a first, developed after voters changed Florida law to allow most felons to become voting citizens again after completing their sentences.
"We got the list of the names, we looked up their cases, the hundreds of cases that we looked at, and then through the process we identified who qualified," said Miami-Dade public defender Carlos Martinez.
But for some, added fees and fines held up their voting rights restoration.
"This is a path that abides by the amendment to what the voters wanted," said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "But also what the legislature passed. "One by one, those who had their rights restored appeared before the courtroom bench in a process that took less than a minute each.
One by one, those with criminal records who had served their time appeared in front of the judge and were returned the rights that most of us already enjoy.
"I can't wait to go to the ballot and vote," said Carmen Brown who is now eligible to vote once again.
Award-winning singer and actor John Legend appeared in the courtroom as a guest of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
"When [former felons] are returning to the community, we make sure that path isn't filled with unnecessary obstacles." said Legend, who fights for restored rights for former felons across the country.