Bloomberg raises millions to help Florida criminals vote

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Just days after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis won a court victory to prevent criminals from voting until they paid fines, restitution and court fees, billionaire Mike Bloomberg stepped in to help them pay off their debts.

The former Democratic presidential candidate helped raise more than $ 20 million so criminals who have completed their prison sentences can vote in the presidential election. Bloomberg also pledged $ 100 million to help Joe Biden win Florida.

“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 the deprivation of civil rights and the discrimination that has always guided it, ”Bloomberg said in a written statement.

A federal appeals court ruled on 9/11 that in addition to serving their sentences, Florida criminals must pay all fines, restitution and legal fees before they can regain their right to vote. The case could have wide-ranging implications for the November elections. Florida has 29 votes in constituencies which are crucial to President Donald Trump’s hopes of remaining in the White House.

Under Amendment 4, which Florida voters overwhelmingly passed in 2018, criminals who completed their sentences would restore voting rights. Republican lawmakers then moved on to define what completing a sentence means.

In addition to the served detention period, lawmakers stipulated that all legal financial obligations, including unpaid fines and restitution, should have been resolved before a criminal could be eligible to vote.

The Florida Rights Restitution Coalition had raised about $ 5 million before Bloomberg appealed to raise nearly $ 17 million more, according to Bloomberg staff.

The money goes to criminals who signed up to vote while the law was under discussion and who owe $ 1,500 or less. That represents about 31,100 people, staff members said. In a state that decided the 2000 presidential election with 537 votes, this could be critical in a year where polls show Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in a stalemate.

The organizers of the group say they do not target people registered in a particular political party.

“To hell with politics, to hell with all other implications or inuations, in the end it’s about real people, real lives, American citizens who want to be a part of this,” said Desmond Meade, executive director of the group. “People with criminal convictions have been silencing their voices for so long.”

The group said other donors include John Legend, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Ben & Jerry’s, Levi Strauss & Co., Miami Dolphins, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, and Stephen Spielberg.

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This version corrects the group name in Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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