Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) has called for state and federal law enforcement to investigate the legality of an effort backed by billionaire Democrat Michael Bloomberg that has raised millions to pay off the debts of felons in the state so that they can vote ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
What are the details?
Bloomberg — who has pledged to spend $100 million to help Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden win the White House — announced Tuesday that he helped raise more than $16 million toward a fund launched by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which has paid off the court fines of over 31,000 former prisoners in order to restore the felons' voting rights.
Following the news of Bloomberg's initiative, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) tweeted, " I just spoke to @AGAshleyMoody, she is all over the @MikeBloomberg-connected activities in Florida.
"There may even be a criminal investigation already underway," the congressman continued. "Law enforcement all over the country should be looking for the cheating Democrats are going to try in this election."
I just spoke to @AGAshleyMoody, she is all over the @MikeBloomberg-connected activities in Florida. There may even… https://t.co/Q9zF8qeMa1— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@Rep. Matt Gaetz)1600826376.0
In a statement obtained by NBC News on Wednesday, Moody announced, "Today, I sent a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into potential violations of election laws, and I have instructed the Statewide Prosecutor to work with law enforcement and any Statewide Grand Jury that the Governor may call."
Moody added that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) had asked her to look into the "recent allegations" reported by The Washington Post regarding Bloomberg's efforts in boosting the plan for restoring voting rights to felons.
Moody's letter references Florida's statute against paying for votes, referencing a Florida Department of State finding that said "even an otherwise innocuous offering of an incentive simply to vote can run afoul" of state election law.
By offering to help pay felons' fines to regain their right to vote, Moody claims Bloomberg could be guilty of violating a Florida Statute, which makes it illegal to "directly or indirectly give or promise anything of value to another in casting his or her vote."
What's the background?
In 2018, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment allowing some felons the right to vote after their time had been served, but the state's Republican-controlled legislature later passed a law requiring the former prisoners to pay all outstanding court fees before having their voting rights restored.
The issue has been batted around in the courts, but for now, the state law requiring that felons pay their fees stands leading Bloomberg and his allies to raise funds to pay off the fines in an effort to boost Democratic turnout.
The former prisoners eligible to apply for their fines and restitution being paid must already be registered to vote with payoffs of less than $1,500, and they must be "black or Latino," The Daily Mail noted.