For convicted felons in Florida, one of their biggest hurdles in exercising their right to vote is exorbitant court fees and fines that prevent them from being eligible to do so. But thanks to LeBron James, Michael Jordan and other celebrities who have partnered with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, nearly 13,000 felons will be able to make their voices heard on Election Day.
From the Tampa Bay Times:
The multimillion-dollar effort by Michael Bloomberg, LeBron James and other celebrities to pay off lingering court fines and fees for Florida felons could make almost 13,000 of them eligible to vote in Tuesday’s election, an analysis by the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald and ProPublica found.
Although the modest increase in eligible felons falls far short of expectations, it could be large enough to make a difference in a key state where polls indicate that the presidential contest is once again a toss-up.
Among four of the state’s largest counties—Hillsborough, Pinellas, Palm Beach and Polk—about 32 percent, or 1,518, of the 4,700 felons who had their fines and fees paid by the nonprofit Florida Rights Restoration Coalition are registered to vote in the upcoming election, according to the Times/Herald/ProPublica review.
If you’re wondering what the price tag on such a noble endeavor is, it ain’t cheap. Eliminating the fines and fees of roughly 40,000 felons throughout the state—which, in turn, translates into nearly 13,000 eligible voters if they don’t have any other outstanding court debts—cost a cool $27 million. It’s a hefty chunk of change for sure, but a small price to pay for critical votes in a swing state with 29 electoral college votes at stake.
It’s also safe to assume that the newly eligible voters will likely favor voting for Kamala Harris—I mean, Joe Biden. Since according to the Times, at least 80 percent of felons whose fines and fees were erased aren’t white (74 percent of them are Black) and 68 percent of them are registered as Democrats.
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Outside of helping to pay off debts so that felons can vote, LeBron has been active in protecting the voting rights of Black folks in America with his voting rights initiative, More Than a Vote. According to LeBron, it was formed to thwart voter suppression, educate Black people on their voting rights and fight back against a system that’s “structurally racist.”
“There’s a lot of people that want change in the Black community,” he said in June while explaining the strategy behind More Than a Vote. “If you actually don’t put in the work or if you don’t have the mindset, there’s never going to be change.”
Hopefully, those newly eligible voters hit the polls make their voices heard.