Billionaire and former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg has helped raise more than $20 million to help felons released from prison register to vote in Florida, a key battleground state in the upcoming general election.
Bloomberg contributed to an influx of funds received by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which says it has raised more than $20 million to pay the court debts of thousands of felons in Florida after a federal appeals court ruled this month that the former prisoners will not be able to vote until they pay fees and fines they owe to the state.
“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 former New York City mayor and others including singer John Legend contributed to the coalition’s massive fundraising effort as the October 5 deadline to register to vote in Florida approaches. The coalition says it has paid the court debts of nearly 5,000 convicted felons so far. Nearly 775,000 felons in the state are estimated to owe court debts and are barred from voting by the restrictions put in place by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature.
“This outpouring of support for returning citizens is reminiscent of the type of support we received from people from all walks of life during our Amendment 4 campaign,” said Desmond Meade, the coalition’s executive director, referring to the 2018 ballot initiative that scrapped the lifetime voting ban on most felons.
“Just as in our campaign, this effort is about placing people over politics. The democracy that we envision is not one where an American is forced to choose between putting food on the table or voting,” Meade added.
Bloomberg, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary race in March, pledged this month to spend $100 million to defeat President Trump in Florida. His promise to inject cash into the state, a must-win for the Trump campaign, prompted a Sunday barb from the president.
“I thought Mini Mike was through with Democrat politics,” Trump wrote in a tweet.