LeBron James Raising Money To Pay Court Debts For Florida Felons So They Can Vote In November
LeBron James wants to help Florida felons get the right to vote, and the NBA star is putting his money where his mouth is to get it done.
James has helped to start a voting rights group that is raising funds to pay the outstanding court debts of people in Florida convicted of felonies. These Floridians had previously been barred from casting their ballots, but a 2018 ballot initiative in the state reversed that and ended the lifetime voting ban on felons. James has teamed up with a number of other Black athletes to start the group More Than A Vote, which has partnered with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) to launch the campaign.
As The Huffington Post reported, close to 1.4 million residents had been unable to vote due to convictions, including one in every five Black residents. After the ballot initiative ended the lifetime bans, Republicans passed a new law requiring Florida felons to first pay off any outstanding court debt — a move that presented financial challenges for close to 775,000 residents.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week upheld the law requiring people to pay off these outstanding fees. Florida had been one of only a handful of states that barred those convicted of felonies from being able to cast a ballot, and proponents of the 2018 law saw the removal of that barrier to be a major victory.
The effort to clear voting hurdles for this population could play a significant role in the upcoming presidential election, where Florida is expected to take on huge significance. U.S. President Donald Trump won the Sunshine State in 2016, but it is considered to be an important battleground this year, with a series of polls showing former Vice President Joe Biden maintaining a lead over Trump.
The More Than A Vote project comes as James moves into an increasingly political space, with the Los Angeles Lakers star using his prominence to fight for a number of social justice causes. This has sometimes led to controversy, as it did after James spoke out about the killing of Ahmaud Arbery earlier this year.
After James spoke out about the killing, sports commentator and television host Jason Whitlock blasted the player on Twitter, accusing the NBA MVP of trying to craft an image as a fighter for social justice while not actually doing any real work.
“It’s twitter trolling,” Whitlock wrote. “It’s using this man’s tragedy to build a brand as more outspoken than Michael Jordan. There are all kinds of ways to draw attention to this tragedy. Suggesting that we are hunted everyday/every time is just sh*t-stirring.”