Billionaire and former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has raised more than $16 million toward paying off the court fines of Florida felons in order to make them eligible to vote, and so far the ongoing effort has settled obligations in full for more than 31,000 former prisoners ahead of Election Day.
What are the details?
Bloomberg aides told The Daily Mail that the former mayor of New York City — who has pledged to spend $100 million to help Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden win on Nov. 3 — rallied other donors and added nearly $17 million to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition's $5 million raised toward pay off fines owed by felons so that they can vote.
The outlet reported that according to the Florida Right Restoration Coalition, "other donors include John Legend, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Ben & Jerry's, Levi Strauss & Co, the Miami Dolphins, the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat and Steven Spielberg."
After Bloomberg and friends' contributions, the initiative has raised enough money to pay off the accounts of 31,100 felons, and according to Axios, the fines for those individuals have already been paid.
"The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and no American should be denied that right. Working together with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we are determined to end disenfranchisement and the discrimination that has always driven it," Bloomberg said in a written statement, The Daily Mail reported.
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 outlet noted. NBC News reported that these are "populations that have historically backed Democrats in larger numbers."
What's the background?
The Washington Post reported that organizing by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition led to Florida voters passing "a statewide constitutional amendment in 2018 that gave former felons, except those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses, the opportunity to vote in upcoming elections."
As TheBlaze previously noted:
After Florida's lifetime voting ban for felons was reversed by an amendment, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed a law requiring those convicted felons to pay all outstanding court debts before being allowed to vote.
In May, a federal judge called that law unconstitutional, saying it was essentially a poll tax and ordering the state to come up with a different process.
The Post also pointed out:
Subsequent court challenges upheld the power of the legislature to condition voting rights on the payment of debts by former felons. Judge Barbara Lagoa, who is under consideration by President Trump as a possible replacement for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, cast a concurring opinion on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the state law requiring payment of debts.