56-year old former felon speaks about emotional first time voting

Aaron Ford now journeyman electrician apprentice, hopeful for future

Former felon, Aaron Ford has been cleared to vote for the 2020 election and cast his ballot right away. He was released from prison about a year ago after serving 10 years. With a new lease on life, he hopes to inspire others.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For many former felons, having their voting rights reinstated in Florida through Amendment 4 is a long time coming. Aaron Ford is one of those now former felons who cast his ballot for president this election cycle.

These days, life is good for Ford. He’s hard at work, focused, and filled with hope for his future. Last year, Ford was released from Florida’s prison system after serving 10 years. He now has a good job at Miller Electric and is a first-year apprentice studying to become a journeyman electrician.

“Everything I’m doing in my life right now feels good because it’s positive,” Ford said. “Like I said, I did negative stuff my whole life.”

After his release, Ford went through the Jacksonville-based program Operation New Hope. It helps ex-offenders re-enter society through job training and support. With voting this past week, Ford’s sister, Shanda Suggs, helped lead the way.

“Him being able to vote for the first time in his life was monumental for me,” Suggs said. “I work as a poll worker, and I was able to call the SOE to see if his name was on the rolls, and it was!”

For Ford, being able to vote was a dream realized at 56 years old.

“You know, I went home and I kind of cried about it because I did something that counts,” Ford said. “Something that someone can look at and say, 'Wow!’”

Ford just shared his story with Operation New Hope’s newest graduates. He has a message for people just like him.

“There’s a better life. The streets and drugs are not the answer,” Ford said. “Not the answer -- there’s a better life.”

A life, changing for the better, with the story just beginning.

Ford’s apprenticeship to become a journeyman electrician is five years. He’s focused and committed to reaching his goal. To learn more about the program that helped him, Operation New Hope, go to https://operationnewhope.org/.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.