The Slatest

Bloomberg Raises $16 Million to Clear Debts and Restore Voting Rights of Former Felons in Florida

Two lines of voting booths with an American flag and the word VOTE on the side.
Voting booths on the campus of the University of South Florida in 2018. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has raised more than $16 million from individuals and foundations over the past week to pay court fines and fees that are preventing Florida voters with felony convictions from being able to cast a vote in the presidential election in November. The Bloomberg-organized donation will go to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which assists Black and Latino voters in the state to cast their ballots by paying administrative costs and limited restitution that the state requires be paid back in full before voting rights are restored.

The $16 million should cover the cost of restoring the franchise of some 32,000 registered Black and Hispanic voters in Florida that would have been excluded because of debts relating to felony convictions that have already been served. The donation appears to be part of Bloomberg’s larger stated commitment to pour $100 million into Florida to help Joe Biden win the state that would whittle Trump’s paths to victory down to a handful of real Hail Marys. “We have identified a significant vote share that requires a nominal investment,” a Bloomberg memo on the donation reads. “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%.” The memo also noted that the universe of new voters amounts to roughly the margin of victory for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2018 and three times Republican Sen. Rick Scott’s winning margin that year.

Beyond the super-Bloombergy “nominal investment” and ROI vibes, there’s also the moral issue that the Florida law creating a financial hurdle to voting is an absolute abomination. It’s also a blatant power grab with an ugly history. “Florida voters passed a statewide constitutional amendment in 2018 that gave former felons, except those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses, the opportunity to vote in upcoming elections,” the Washington Post notes. “The Republican-controlled legislature subsequently passed, and the Republican governor signed, a law that conditioned their return to the voting rolls on the payment of all fees, fines and restitution that were part of their sentence.”