The Washington Post reports that the ex-New York mayor has raised over $16 million that will go to paying court fines and fees for almost 32,000 Black and Hispanic Florida voters with felony convictions, in order to increase turnout for Joe Biden. Bloomberg has also personally committed at least $100 million to elect Biden in Florida.
Bloomberg is giving the funds to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which will pay the fines, fees, and restitution costs for former prisoners who are already registered voters in Florida but are legally unable to cast ballots due to unpaid debts. Over the last week, individuals and foundations donated the money to Bloomberg, which he believed was a more economical way to boost Democratic votes than spending money on persuading those who are already are eligible to vote.
“We have identified a significant vote share that requires a nominal investment,” a Bloomberg memo read. “The data shows that in Florida, Black voters are a unique universe unlike any other voting bloc, where the Democratic support rate tends to be 90-95 percent.”
A nonpartisan group, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition focuses on fundraising that will help former felons participate in elections. However, the group doesn’t see eye-to-eye on Bloomberg’s goal to advocate for only one political party. “Different people may give for different reasons but we are in this for one reason and that reason is to place people over politics,” Desmond Meade, the group’s president, told The Post. “We are concerned with people from all walks of life, from all sorts of politics.”
The organization has raised around $7 million from 44,000 donors on its own. The average debt of a former prisoner is about $1,000.
In 2018, Meade’s group persuaded Florida voters to pass a statewide constitutional amendment that gave former felons—barring those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses—the ability to vote. However, their return to the polls was dependent on payment of all the fees, fines, and restitution from their sentences. According to Bloomberg’s advisers, Black and Hispanic voters are likely to vote for Biden and more prone to vote than other groups of former felons.