A group working to restore voting rights to ex-felons in the battleground state of Florida is speeding up to deliver money to court clerks to help pay off court fees and fines as the voter-registration deadline itself is fast approaching.
However, that effort alone may not be enough to make a difference in this year’s election.
Leaders of the nonpartisan Florida Rights Restoration Coalition say a stream of donations in recent months — aided, in part, by a big fundraising boost from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and his team — has dramatically expanded their ability to help people in Florida whose outstanding financial obligations have prevented them from casting ballots.
So far, the voting rights group has raised enough money to help about 20,000 people pay their court debts.
Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida at Gainesville, said that ‘it’s certainly going to help at the margins, getting some people registered, and it’s the right thing to do.’
“But this is not going to tip Florida to Democrats,” Smith added.
Last year, Smith estimated that more than 774,000 former felons in Florida have outstanding fines and fees that prevented them from voting.
A recent federal appeals court ruling has left most of these potential voters on the sidelines ahead of Election Day on November 3.