/A Harrison County man moves closer to having his voting rights restored — but it hasn’t been easy

A Harrison County man moves closer to having his voting rights restored — but it hasn’t been easy

Fick considers himself to be a law-abiding citizen these days. But that was not always the case. Fick pleaded guilty in 1992 to possessing controlled substances and receiving stolen property. This was more than 25 years ago. Fick said that he was young, dumb and stupid back then. Fick spent three years in prison after completing the now-defunct Regimented Inmate Dicipline Program at Parchman Farm. He also served five years probation. Fick quickly discovered that Fick was also subject to a punitive measure: A conviction for receiving stolen property would result in Fick being permanently barred from voting in any election. Fick’s local lawmaker from Long Beach, Rep. Richard Bennett sponsored a bill last year to restore Fick’s right to vote. Governor. Phil Bryant, the governor of Texas, vetoed the bill. He cited in a letter that Fick had continued to violate law after his initial disqualifying felony conviction. On Thursday morning’s first meeting of the House Judiciary B Committee, Rep. Angela Cockerham (D-Magnolia) read Bryant’s letter aloud and acknowledged that Bryant’s veto was based on a mistake. Fick had not been convicted for another crime. Cockerham stated that Bennett plans to reintroduce Fick’s suffrage bill and that the committee would then consider it again. Knox Graham, a spokesperson for the governor, stated that Fick’s bill is subject to a specific process. “Information provided to our office from local law enforcement indicated that Fick had a continuing criminal record. As usual, Governor. Bryant will thoroughly review any bill that is brought to his desk before signing it.” Fick received a call on Thursday morning from a Mississippi Today reporter. He was working in a field at Harrison County fairgrounds, re-painting old sheds. Fick said, “Wow, that is awesome,” after the reporter informed him that his suffrage bill was being reintroduced in this session. Fick said, “You just made me day.” Fick, who didn’t know that his bill would be reintroduced this session, stated that confusion over his criminal history arose when the committee called Harrison County sheriff last summer for a background check. Fick stated that the sheriff misreported a domestic violence case from almost a decade ago, which actually belonged to Fick’s son, Timothy. Fick, now 51 years old, has had to go through a number of trials and tribulations in his quest to regain his vote. He first hired a lawyer to help him get his record expunged. However, he was denied expungement for his conviction for receiving stolen property. Fick then sought a pardon from his governor, following the advice of a friend. Fick was convicted of the crimes. That too didn’t work. A good friend of Fick’s suggested that Bennett, his brother-in law, might be able help. Fick replied, “Heck, it’s worthwhile trying,” Then, it fell through. “And then that fell through. After being convicted for one of the 22 state disenfranchising offenses, people can no longer vote. They must be pardoned by the governor or an act of the legislature to regain their rights. Individual suffrage bills rarely succeed in practice. According to the Sentencing Project, 335 Mississippians have had their right of vote restored in the period 2000-2015, according to one estimate. According to a Mississippi Today analysis, 56,000 Mississippians were disenfranchised in the period 1994-2017. The Mississippi Center for Justice, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center filed two lawsuits that are currently pending before a federal court. Both lawsuits challenge the state’s decision to deny people their voting rights after a conviction for felony. Mississippi is the state with the highest percentage of disenfranchised citizens. Florida, the former leader, passed a referendum in November last year to restore voting rights for people who had served their felony sentences. Mississippi lawmakers may introduce legislation this year to restore these rights, even though the previous bills were defeated in recent years. Gov. Bryant, who stated that he opposed such changes, doesn’t sign the suffrage bills before him. Instead, he allows them to pass without signing. Fick stated that Fick had never voted before his criminal conviction. Fick stated that it was really discouraging. Fick said, “I’m doing all right… I’m completely different.” “I’m not a heathen.” Make a regular donation to support this work today as we celebrate our Spring Member Drive. This will allow us to continue important work such as this one.