13,000 Florida felons could be eligible voters after celebrities paid fines, fees: analysis

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Up to 13,000 Florida felons could be eligible to vote thanks to the concerted effort by celebrities to pay off their court fines and fees according to an analysis conducted by the Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald and Propublica.

Notable figures such as Michael Bloomberg and LeBron James contributed to the nonprofit Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the Tampa Bay Times reports, helping to pay about $27 million in fines and fees.

This allows potentially 12,800 eligible voters to register to vote and, as the report notes, this could be a boon to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden as most of these voters appear to be Democrats. The review found that in the Florida counties where fees were paid off — Hillsborough, Pinellas, Palm Beach and Polk — 74 percent were Black and among that group, 68 percent were registered as Democrats.

In a Morning Consult poll released Monday, Biden leads Trump by 6 points in Florida. Most other polls from Florida show the race to be extremely tight, with several recent polls showing Biden and President Trump statistically tied according to RealClearPolitics.

Neil Volz, deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, told the newspaper, “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.”

As the Tampa Bay Times points out, this nonprofit-led action comes two years after Florida voters approved Amendment 4 which restored voting rights to felons. However, the Florida legislature stipulated that felons must settle all conditions of their sentence, including court fines and fees.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered attorney general Ashley Moody to have the state police and FBI investigate the payments made by the coalition to see if they were an illegal inducement to vote. As reported by the paper, state police said last week that there is a “preliminary inquiry” that has not yet been elevated to an investigation.

According to the president of the coalition, Desmond Meade, the donations have not only helped felons regain their voting rights, but also provided badly needed funds to courts beleaguered by the coronavirus 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,” said Meade.

Tags 2020 presidential election Donald Trump felon voting Florida Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Joe Biden LeBron James Michael Bloomberg Ron DeSantis

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