Written by Alexandra Pecharich
Originally published on February 22, 2023 at news.fiu.edu.
An FIU alumnus-led organization that successfully worked to restore voting rights to ex-felons in Florida has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
“The Nobel Peace Prize is the highest recognition that any individual organization could receive in the world,” said Desmond Meade JD ’14, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. “And we want to take advantage of this opportunity to really highlight the power of second chances — that even though people like me have made mistakes in the past, there’s still an opportunity for us to be contributing members of society.”
Once incarcerated himself, Meade learned firsthand that those in the state who had paid their debt to society could not participate in the simple but powerful act of voting. Attending FIU’s law school gave him the confidence and skills to spearhead a campaign that in 2018 resulted in Florida voters saying “yes” to allowing the most basic form of civic engagement.
That success has been called “the largest expansion of voting rights in a half-century” and it brought wide acclaim to the man at the center of the mission.
Time magazine named Meade among the 2019 “100 Most Influential People,” which put him in the company of the world’s top thought leaders, artists and pioneers as well as landed him on the cover of the publication.
The MacArthur Foundation in 2021 awarded Meade a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, which provides a $625,000 stipend to talented individuals who show extraordinary originality, exceptional creativity and the potential to lead important future advances.
Meade also found himself inducted into the Miami Dade College Hall of Fame and named Central Floridian of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel and Floridian of the Year by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at UF. In 2022, he earned FIU’s highest honor as a Torch Award recipient in the category of distinguished alumnus.
His organization subsequently raised $30 million to help 40,000 indviduals pay off the fines and fees deemed required by the state legislature to regain voter eligibility.
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition was nominated for the Nobel by The American Friends Service Committee and Quaker Peace and Social Witness, the groups that successfully nominated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for the prize in 1964.
“We are nominating FRRC for their work in building democracy, supporting the human right to representation by government, and working towards a better organized and peaceful world,” the American Friends Service Committee said in a statement.