ORLANDO, Fla. — Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who is backing Democrat Joe Biden for the presidency, has raised more than $16 million for a group helping to pay off the debts of some of Florida's nonviolent felons so they can vote in November.
What You Need To Know
- Michael Bloomberg raising money for Florida felon voting rights group
- Florida Rights Restoration Coalition paying fines, fees of felons registered to vote
- Florida is critical swing state for President Donald Trump's re-election chances
- RELATED: Amendment 4 in Action: Meet the Man Who Voted for the 1st Time in 30 Years
Whether those felons can cast a ballot could have broad implications for the outcome of the presidential election. Florida is a battleground state and is critical for President Donald Trump's re-election bid.
Bloomberg's fundraising efforts come less than two weeks after a ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's decision in a battle between Amendment 4 advocates and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Florida's Amendment 4, passed by voters in 2018, restores voting rights to most felons who have completed their sentences. But in drafting the law, the state Legislature defined completion of a sentence as paying all court fines, fees and restitution.
More than a dozen former felons challenged that law, arguing they were indigent and therefore unable to pay those fees. The lower court had ruled that the law violated the Constitutional rights of those who didn't have enough money to pay.
After the federal appeals court's reversal, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, led by Orlando voting rights advocate Desmond Meade, turned its efforts to paying off the fines and fees of felons who had registered to vote but owed $1,500 or less.
“We’ve seen an amazing outpouring of support for returning citizens here in Florida, who unfortunately are forced to choose between putting food on their kids’ table or voting.” Meade said. “It’s extremely difficult when someone is coming out of the system to even be able to pay a lot of these court costs or these fees or fines that have been associated with the conviction.”
The FRRC had raised $5 million before Bloomberg began fundraising, according to the Associated Press. He's added more than $16 million, a spokesperson confirmed to Spectrum News.
"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 released statement.
Other donors to the FRRC, according to the AP, 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 Stephen Spielberg.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.