Bloomberg Raises $16 Million to Help Florida Ex-Felons Register to Vote

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In the 2018 midterm, more than 1.5 million Floridians regained the right to vote when a successful ballot initiative reversed a Jim Crow–era law by restoring access to the ballot to ex-felons. But the largest act of enfranchisement since the passage of the 26th Amendment was largely blocked by Florida Republicans; they passed legislation in 2019 which requires these new voters to pay off any court fines and fees related to their offenses before they can register to vote.

That measure, more commonly referred to as a poll tax, was overturned earlier this year by a federal judge who noted the “racial impact” of the GOP-written law. But the poll tax was reinstated earlier this month by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on a 6-4 ruling, featuring a vote in the majority from Barbara Lagoa, a potential Supreme Court candidate who the president is reportedly meeting with on Friday.

Now, at the end of this judicial back-and-forth, 430,000 Florida residents who were granted access to the ballot by a majority of their peers in November 2018 may not be able to vote in November 2020.

Enter Michael Bloomberg: On Tuesday, the billionaire announced that his political operation had raised over $16.1 million in the past week to pay off court fines and fees for 32,000 Black and Latino ex-felons in Florida, allowing them to register for the upcoming election before the deadline of October 5.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and no American should be denied that right,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Working together with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we are determined to end disenfranchisement and the discrimination that has always driven it.” The FRRC has raised an additional $4 million in the ten days since the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the functional poll tax.

The announcement comes a little over a week after Bloomberg pledged $100 million of his own money to help Joe Biden win in Florida by boosting his advertising among the crucial swing state’s Latino voters. An aide told CNN that the funding for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition would not be subtracted from the $100 million sum.

Bloomberg Pays Fines of 32,000 Floridians So They Can Vote