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Local woman fighting to restore felons' right to vote

Posted at 7:54 PM, Oct 03, 2018

Inside the Lord's Place Thrift shop you'll find a woman shopping for a second chance. For Cece Espeut each rack is a reminder of how far she's come.

"You know you make one bad decision and then it just snowballs," she said. 

More than 20 years ago Epseut was serving in the United States Marine Corps and before she knew it her life was spiraling out of control.

"They say when you get involved with drugs it's almost like you can't stop until someone stops you and that's exactly what happened with me," Epseut recalled. 

Charged with drug conspiracy she spent two years in federal prison. Serving most of her time in solitary confinement. When she got out she was determined to turn her life around.

"I started to investigate how to get a pardon and what does a pardon mean," she said. 

It took years and several attempts before her right to vote was restored. Now she's using her freedom to educate people about an amendment on this upcoming November ballot. If voted through Amendment 4 will restore voting rights to felons who have completed the terms of their sentence.

"There are 1.5 million people in the state Florida who are in this situation where they completed their debt to society and they've earned their second chance and returning to communities yet they are not able to vote," Melba Pearson said.

Pearson is the Deputy Director of the American Civil Union of Florida. They too have been pushing for the amendment.

"If we keep that distance and keep casting people out in this way that's not an incentive for people to be full members of society," Pearson said.

As for Epseut she's using her second chance to keep moving forward. 

"In my mind, I have to stay strong and say like okay I made a mistake once I don't have to go back and do any of those things and know that life continues," she said.