New York Billionaire and brief Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is turning cash into votes in Florida. Bloomberg has helped raise over $20 million to guarantee a very specific population can vote in the upcoming elections: felons who have completed their prison sentences but have debts to pay before they can vote.
Earlier this month, a federal appellate court ruled “in addition to serving their sentences, Florida felons must pay all fines, restitution and legal fees before they can regain their right to vote” reported the Associated Press. In a state where every vote counts for the potential 29 electoral college votes, Bloomberg is doing his part.
Stepping in to help Florida felons pay off their debts before the elections, Bloomberg raised almost $17 million to add to the 5$ raised by the Florida Rights Restitution Coalition, according to Bloomberg staffers. In addition to Bloomberg, other big-name donors include John Legend, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Ben & Jerry’s, Levi Strauss & Co., the Miami Dolphins, the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat and Stephen Spielberg.
Bloomberg’s actions demonstrate his assumption that the former felons will vote for Biden. Bloomberg himself has pledged $100 million to help Biden win in Florida. “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and no American should be denied that right. Working together with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we are determined to end disenfranchisement and the discrimination that has always driven it” Bloomberg said in a written statement.
Organizers for the group claim they do not target people registered with a particular political party. “To hell with politics, to hell with any other implications or insinuations, at the end of the day it’s about real people, real lives, American citizens who want to be a part of this,” said the group’s executive director. “People with felony convictions have had their voices silenced for so long.”
The Associated Press reports “the money is targeted for felons who registered to vote while the law was in question and who owe $1,500 or less. That accounts for about 31,100 people, the staffers said.” Tens of millions of dollars may seem like a lot for 31,100 people, but “in a state that decided the 2000 presidential election by 537 votes, that could be critical in a year when polls show Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in a dead heat” according to the AP.