A voting rights group founded by NBA superstar LeBron James 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 campaign the Los Angeles Lakers player started with other Black athletes and artists last month to fight Black voter suppression, is partnering with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), a group that 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, who’s also a member of More Than A Vote, said in a statement 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.
Those penalties come in the form of restitution, court fines or other fees associated with their past convictions. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Florida’s rule blocking people from voting if they have any of those outstanding fees, which Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law last year. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued the law disenfranchises people “simply because they are poor.”
The FRRC, which has already raised more than $1.5 million for its fines and fees program, hopes teaming up with James’ campaign will raise awareness around the issue.
“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 for Florida’s August primary has already passed, residents have until Oct. 5 to register for the presidential election on Nov. 3. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, currently holds a 13-point lead over President Donald Trump in the state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.