Last week, the Miami Herald Editorial Board urged Michael Bloomberg to "write a big old check" to help ex-felons in Florida vote in the presidential election. The editorial was picked up by several national outlets.
This week, he announced that he has raised almost $20 million for the cause. Bravo!
After decades of being denied the right to vote, most former prisoners in the state still are being denied access to the ballot box, even though, in 2018, a solid majority of voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing them to cast a ballot. Gov. DeSantis and the Republican Legislature erected what they knew would be a roadblock: an added provision that ex-felons have to pay all court fees and fines before having their right to vote restored. It was a caveat that voters never intended.
We don't know if the ex-New York mayor and former Democratic candidate for president even read our Sept. 17 editorial, "Write a big old check, Mr. Bloomberg and help Florida's ex-felons vote in November." But at the very least, we're going to pat ourselves on the back for having a good idea that Bloomberg, too, thought was worthy.
He is fulfilling his promise to do anything in his money's power to pull Florida into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's camp in November. He already had pledged to spend $100 million in Florida alone for Biden ads. Tuesday, he announced the strategy championed by the Editorial Board to get more Florida voters to the polls by paying off many former inmates' fines and fees. Bravo!
On Tuesday, Bloomberg announced his team has raised at least $16 million to pay the court fines and fees of nearly 32,000 of the 776,000 Florida voters with felony convictions, many of them Black and Hispanic.
After Bloomberg committed to spending $100 million in the state, we followed up by saying that, with legal challenges to overturn the fee requirement for ex-felons seemingly at an end, Bloomberg "could be their last hope, empowering hundreds of thousands of new voters to cast their ballots in Florida."
"With such a significant donation, Bloomberg's money won't get lost in the miasma of campaign ads and yard signs, it will have a direct effect on ensuring the democratic process."
Bloomberg's fines-and-fees money now goes to the fund created by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which has been collecting money to pay what's owed by former prisoners who want to vote.
The onus now is on the coalition to quickly reach out to those disenfranchised voters in Florida, settle up their fines and fees and get them registered to vote before the Oct. 5 deadline.
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