More Than A Vote is raising funds to help people in Florida with felony records pay outstanding court debts that prevent them from voting, the group announced Friday.
More Than A Vote, a voting rights group founded LeBron James started with other Black athletes and artists last month to fight Black voter suppression, is partnering with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC). This group helped end Florida’s lifetime voting ban for most people with felony convictions in 2018. They hope to raise $100,000.
Miami Heat Forward Udonis Haslem, a member of More Than A Vote, said that the thinking is simple: “We believe that your right to vote shouldn’t depend upon whether or not you can pay to exercise it.”
There are around 1.4 million Floridians with felony convictions, the FRRC said. And as of 2016, one in five Black citizens in Florida were disenfranchised. As Politico noted, as many as 775,000 people in Florida with felony convictions face financial penalties that render them ineligible to vote until they can pay them.
In 2018, voters in Florida approved an amendment that would restore voting eligibility for certain ex-felons who committed non-violent crimes. However, that amendment said they would only be able to vote once “they complete all terms of their sentence.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis responded by passing a new law requiring all fees and fines related to their conviction and court appearances to be paid before their sentence would officially be viewed as complete.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Florida’s rule blocking people from voting if they had any outstanding fees. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued the law deprives people “simply because they are poor.”
The FRRC, which has raised more than $1.5 million for its fines and fees program, will raise awareness around the issue with James’ campaign.
“This partnership will improve lives and strengthen our democracy,” FRRC executive director Desmond Meade said, adding, “We look forward to the positive impact it will have on our communities and the lives of those who are hoping to vote and have their voices heard.”
While the deadline to register just passing for Florida’s August primary, residents have until Oct. 5 to register for the presidential election on Nov.3. Florida residents who may need assistance registering to vote or updating their information can go to https://registertovoteflorida.gov/eligibilityreactive.