A group of fans flooded the virtual screens during Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night with a very clear message.
The former felons had their rights to vote restored in the state two years ago, though a provision often seen as unconstitutional and racist was added on — something that has become a battleground headed into the election this fall.
After Amendment 4 was passed, a provision was added that said before ex-felons could be eligible to vote, they needed to repay any fines or fees associated with their sentence. The Miami Heat and NBA donated $45K to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition’s Fines & Fees Program. https://t.co/c8eK1GZTkX
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) October 7, 2020
What is Amendment 4?
About 1.4 million Floridians had their right to vote restored in 2018 after Amendment 4 was passed in 2018. The amendment restored voting rights to those who were convicted of a felony and had served their sentences, with the exception of murder or sexual abuse, per The New York Times.
Republican lawmakers and the governor, however, passed a law last year that required ex-felons to pay back court fines and fees before being allowed to vote. That law, essentially a poll tax, was found unconstitutional in May. An appeals court overturned that ruling last month. Five of the six votes in that ruling came from judges appointed by President Donald Trump, too, according to The Times.
About 75 percent of former felons owe a court debt, per the report, and about 70 percent of them are unable to pay. There isn’t a central database of court fines and feens, either, making the process much more difficult if not impossible.
“It has been a very long slog to change public opinion on the re-enfranchisement of felons, and it took millions of dollars and a lot of effort to get that initiative passed,” Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University law professor, told The Times. “The idea that felons would then have to pay money in order to vote after being enfranchised is depressing.”
Several groups have since helped join the fight to restore ex-felons’ voting rights, including the Heat and Lakers star LeBron James.
The Heat and the NBA donated $45,000 to the cause, and James’ “More Than A Vote” initiative committed $100,000 in July.
Voting has become one of the central issues players in the league have been advocating for since play resumed. Nearly 90 percent of the league is now registered to vote itself according to Chris Paul, they are running a massive educational ad campaign encouraging others to vote this fall, and teams have promised to turn their arenas or practice facilities into polling places in November.
Tuesday’s demonstration is just another perfect example of how important the issue really is.
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