Former felons in Florida who’ve been stymied by a contentious Florida law that requires them to pay their court fines and fees before being allowed to vote are getting a boost from a group of wealthy celebrities. Lebron James, Mike Bloomberg and other moneybag types have pooled their resources to pay the court fines and fees of some 12,800 former felons. The nonprofit Florida Rights Restoration Coalition was able to organize efforts to raise some $27 million from James, Bloomberg and their rich pals, according to the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Neil Volz, deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, told the Times, “We want communities to get better by having more voices heard, and the quicker people are able to be reintegrated into the community, the better.”
Most polls show Florida in an extremely tight matchup between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, so moves like this could end up having big consequences for the electoral college.
It all started about two years ago, when Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to former felons. However, Florida legislature then passed a new law requiring former felons to pay off any court fines or fees before their voting rights are restored, a move critics refer to as a “poll tax.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t seem too happy about the celebrity benefactors and is having his attorney general Ashley Moody investigate for any criminal wrongdoing.
But Desmond Meade, president of the coalition, says the money is doing more than just restoring voting rights to former felons. For example, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has also been able to help courts hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were able to go to Brevard County and hand them a check for $551,000. All of Florida taxpayers are benefiting from our efforts,” Meade told The Hill.