Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has paid off millions of dollars in outstanding punitive debts for former felons in Florida so they can register to vote in the 2020 election, Axios reported on Tuesday.
Florida ratified a constitutional amendment in 2018 requiring convicted felons who had served their sentences to pay fees, fines, and penalties that accompanied their punishments, often totalling more than $1,000, in order to be eligible to register to vote.
Despite a challenge by voting rights groups, the law – viewed by voting rights advocates as an unconstitutional poll tax – was upheld last week by the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals.
Thanks to Bloomberg, an early candidate in the Democratic primary race for the party’s nomination, as well as a $5 million haul from The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, 32,000 former convicts have had $16,100,000 in state legal debts cleared and may now participate in the election.
Voters who were already registered to vote, Black or Latino, and had fines and fees of less than $1500 were eligible for the payback initiative.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and no American should be denied that right,” a Bloomberg spokesperson told Axios. “Working together with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we are determined to end disenfranchisement and the discrimination that has always driven it.”
Bloomberg’s net worth is a healthy $54.9 billion according to Forbes and is the 16th richest person in the world. He has also pledged $100 million of his own fortune help former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, defeat President Donald Trump in Florida in November.
With its 29 Electoral College votes and increasingly diverse population, Florida is the nation’s most populous swing state and a must-win for both presidenial candidates. Trump narrowly defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the Sunshine State by 1.2 points in 2016. In 2008 and 2012, Florida went blue for former President Barack Obama.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.