Billionaire ex-presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg has raised over $16 million to pay the fees keeping some felons out of Florida’s voting booths, touting the apparent votes-for-cash trade as a cost-effective route to victory.
The money will go to pay off court fees, restitution costs, and other fines for 32,000 black and Hispanic Florida voters with felony convictions, clearing the way for their return to participatory democracy – and, the former NYC mayor hopes, guaranteeing a win for Democratic candidate Joe Biden in a critical swing state.
While convicted felons who’ve served their sentences have been allowed to vote in Florida since 2018, as long as they weren’t convicted of murder or sex crimes, they must pay all fines and fees before being allowed back on the voting rolls. That requirement has placed the franchise out of reach of over three-quarters of a million ex-cons – until now.
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The funds raised by Bloomberg will be combined with $5 million already raised by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. The program’s get-out-the-vote effort is aimed at only a very narrow subsection of the state’s sizable felon population, however: black and Hispanic ex-cons who are already registered to vote and owe less than $1,500 in fees.
The racial specification is no mere nod to the current vogue for combating racism in the justice system, according to a Bloomberg memo obtained by the Washington Post on Tuesday. With the plutocrat’s characteristic bluntness toward racial issues, the memo gushes that black voters in Florida are “a unique universe unlike any other voting bloc, where the Democratic support rate tends to be 90%-95%.”
Hispanic voters – excluding Cuban-Americans – are in favor of Biden by a three-to-one margin, the memo continues, while acknowledging the nominee is faring noticeably worse among the Cuban contingent than 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who lost Florida to then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016.
The targeted group is both more likely to vote than other cross-sections of the felon population and more likely to vote for Biden, according to Bloomberg advisers who spoke to the Post. Bloomberg – who, ironically, landed in hot water while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year for his full-throated support of racially biased stop-and-frisk policies while mayor of New York City – wanted to extend the franchise to thousands of black and Hispanic ex-cons because “it’s the right thing to do for the democracy,” one adviser told the outlet. Oh, and “because it immediately activates tens of thousands of voters who are predisposed to vote for Joe Biden.”
The memo frames the votes-for-felons fundraiser as a more “cost-effective” way of getting votes for Biden, observing that most Florida residents who already have the right to vote have made up their minds for November already. Ex-cons, on the other hand, are “a significant vote share that requires a nominal investment,” the memo states.
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Bloomberg has turned on a veritable financial fire hose in a bid to float Biden into the White House in November, pledging $100 million just to win Florida – a key swing state currently dominated by a Republican governor and legislature. The $16 million raised for felons’ votes is not Bloomberg’s own money and thus not part of the pledged total, which a spokesperson said will be largely spent on TV and digital ads.
While Biden is leading in Florida by a very narrow margin, an influx of 32,000 ex-cons into the Democratic camp could make all the difference on Election Day – it’s approximately the margin of victory that netted Republican Governor Ron DeSantis his office in 2018, and three times larger than Republican Senator Rick Scott’s own margin.
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