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LeBron James' group to donate $100K to pay fines for ex-felons seeking to vote in Florida

LeBron James' group to donate $100K to pay fines for ex-felons seeking to vote in Florida
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The voting rights group founded by NBA star LeBron James and other athletes is committed to donating $100,000 to help pay outstanding fines and fees for former felons seeking to vote in Florida.

More Than A Vote plans to make the donation to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, an organization that helped push a 2018 ballot measure that restored the right to vote to the former felon population in the Sunshine State, ABC News reported.

The money will be used to help former felons pay off any outstanding court debts related to their convictions so they can register to vote.

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"We believe that your right to vote shouldn’t depend upon whether or not you can pay to exercise it," Udonis Haslem, a forward for the Miami Heat and More Than A Vote member, said in a statement.

State Republicans in the Florida House pushed through a law last April that established the requirement for felons to pay all court fees and costs, in addition to restitution, before becoming eligible to vote.

The measure significantly curtailed a state constitutional amendment voted on by Floridans during the 2018 elections that restored voting rights to about 1.4 million ex-convicts.

Critics argued that the bill, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida become the third state to cross 1 million COVID-19 cases The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans MORE (R), was an unconstitutional modern-day “poll tax” that would keep felons disenfranchised. 

Several poor, court-indebted felons who had otherwise served out their sentences asked a federal court to strike down the pay requirement on constitutional grounds.

A federal trial court on May invalidated the payment component, ruling that it was unlawful to prohibit voting access based on indigence.

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Several weeks later, the Atlanta-based Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit agreed to halt the lower court ruling while an appeal played out, effectively making it illegal for court-indebted felons to register to vote or cast ballots.

Last week, the conservative-majority Supreme Court declined to revisit the 11th Circuit ruling.

Three of the court’s more liberal justices, Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorConservative justices seem prepared to let Trump proceed with immigrant census plan for now Will the Supreme Court take ObamaCare off life-support? Supreme Court grapples over Catholic organization's fight against nondiscrimination law MORERuth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgCuomo likens COVID-19 to the Grinch: 'The season of viral transmission' For Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty Cardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 MORE and Elena KaganElena KaganCOVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries Will the Supreme Court take ObamaCare off life-support? How recent Supreme Court rulings will impact three battleground states MORE, dissented.

"Under this scheme, nearly a million otherwise-eligible citizens cannot vote unless they pay money," wrote Sotomayor, who called the policy a "voter paywall."

LeBron founded More Than a Vote last month in the wake of worldwide protests over racial inequality and police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody.

The group aims in part of motivating African Americans to cast ballots in the November election.

Other current and former basketball stars are also involved the effort, including Trae Young, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Jalen Rose.