PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. (CBS12) — For the last two years, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition embarked on a mission to help millions of felons in the state restore their right to vote. Just before the deadline for 2020's presidential election, the coalition reached thousands.
In Florida, a felon may restore their right to vote after completing their sentence; that now includes paying off all outstanding court costs and restitution fees. On average, the FRRC says that is a price tag valued at between $1,000 - $1,500 per felon.
Before the voter registration deadline, the coalition raised a total of $25 million statewide; they say that helped break down the barrier for 25,000 returning citizens. Over the weekend, the coalition, along with Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg, donated $1.8 million to the Palm Beach County clerk's office.
"All of our fight and all of our heart is worth it for one person to get their voice restored, or the ability to get their voice restored," said Neil Volz, deputy director of the FRRC. "So for us to know we were able to raise and spend $25 million and tear down barriers to democracy for 25,000 individuals who might or might not engaged that process, that's a worth while mission."
Last month, former democratic presidential candidate and political billionaire Mike Bloomberg said he would raise hundreds of millions to support Joe Biden in Florida, which included a pledge to raise $16 million for felons. The FRRC says they did not receive a donation from Bloomberg, but a spokesperson says he did help raise $16 million of their $25 million total. That pledge caught the eyes of Florida republicans, who called on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI to launch an investigation.
Now that the deadline to register has passed, Volz says the coalition will now focus on launching their own non-partisan platform, focusing on issues that affect felons.
"Things like how do we improve the re-entry system, how do we improve the bail system, how do we make probation work for everyone in the community," he said. "Those are the kinds of issues that we'll be engaging in."
After a freeze on the voter registration website late Monday night, FRRC's executive director Desmond Meade is calling on Governor Ron DeSantis to extend the deadline.
Election Day is November 3.