The voting rights organization founded by NBA star LeBron James is contributing $100,000 toward paying fines for convicted felons in Florida so they can vote, Politico reported.
James and other athletes and entertainers founded More Than a Vote after the death of George Floyd as a group focused on increasing voter turnout among minority communities. In Florida, convicted felons were granted the right to vote, but they are still prohibited from doing so if they owe court debts.
“Your right to vote shouldn’t depend upon whether or not you can pay to exercise it,” Miami Heat forward and More than a Vote member Udonis Haslem said in a written statement.
The partnership will help ensure that “formerly incarcerated American citizens — many of them Black and brown — are able to pay their outstanding fines and fees and register to vote in the 2020 election and beyond.”
The coalition already has raised more than $1.5 million for its fees-and-fines fund, but the partnership with More Than A Vote is expected to bring attention and awareness to the effort.
More Than a Vote is partnering with Florida Rights Restoration Coalition in this effort.
“We are Black athletes and artists working together,” reads a statement of purpose on the More Than a Vote website. “Our priority right now is combating systemic, racist voter suppression by educating, energizing, and protecting our community in 2020.”
A study earlier this year concluded that more than 774,000 incarcerated people can’t vote because of legal financial obligations, and the professor who conducted that study called that number a “conservative” estimate. For context, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis beat his Democratic opponent, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, by only 33,000 votes in 2018.
After Florida’s lifetime voting ban for felons was reversed by an amendment, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed a law requiring those convicted felons to pay all outstanding court debts before being allowed to vote.
In May, a federal judge called that law unconstitutional, saying it was essentially a poll tax and ordering the state to come up with a different process.
“Taxation without representation led a group of patriots to throw lots of tea into a harbor when there were barely united colonies, let alone a United States,” U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in his ruling, Politico reported. “Before Amendment 4, no state disenfranchised as large a portion of the electorate as Florida.”
DeSantis has appealed the ruling, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will hold a hearing on the case on Aug. 18.