How LeBron James Is Joining the Fight to Give Floridians Who Had Convictions the Right to Vote

Lebron-James-Ex-Felons-Voting

Image via AP Photo/Nam Huh

By Erica K. Landau

July 24, 2020

“The right to vote should not come with a price tag,” the basketball legend wrote on Twitter.

A voting rights group co-founded by NBA superstar and former Miami Heat player LeBron James is raising $100,000 to help pay off fines and fees of ex-felons in Florida so they can be eligible to vote in November 

The group, More Than a Vote, announced Friday it will donate the money to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a grassroots organization focused on restoring the voting rights of returning citizens in the state. 

The group also announced plans to raise money through ongoing online screenings of the documentary “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” which follows the life of the late congressman and civil rights hero, who died July 17. All proceeds from the screenings will go to the FRRC fines and fees fund.

James and others started More Than a Vote following the death of George Floyd, hoping to support and propel the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, of which James has been a vocal supporter. 

“Because of everything that’s going on, people are finally starting to listen to us — we feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door,” James told the New York Times in June.

“We feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference,” he continued.

Friday’s announcement marks the beginning of a partnership between More Than a Vote and the FRRC to “end disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions in the state of Florida,” the groups said in a press release.

The FRRC has already raised $1.5 million for its fines and fees fund, according to its website. It hopes to raise a total of $3 million. 

The FRRC is also the group behind the 2018 passage of Amendment 4, which restored the voting rights of 1.4 million Floridians with prior felony convictions and which Florida voters supported 65% to 35%. It was the largest voting-rights expansion in decades. 

However after the Amendment passed, the state’s Republican-led legislature passed a law that required ex-felons to pay off outstanding fees and fines associated with their convictions. The law was roundly criticized as a poll tax, including by Federal Judge Robert Hinkle who struck the law down in May. 

But this month the Supreme Court ruled that Florida could in fact bar ex-felons from voting if they owed fines.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Elena Kagan dissent, saying the order “prevents thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida’s primary election simply because they are poor.”

An estimated 774,000 Floridians with prior felony convictions will be disenfranchised because of  financial obligations.

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CATEGORIES: Florida | Social Justice | Sports

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