FL GOP AG Demands Investigation Into Bloomberg Bid To Help Ex-Felons Regain Franchise

ORLANDO, UNITED STATES-JANUARY 08: Desmond Meade, right, is accompanied by his daughter, Xcellence Meade, center, and his wife, Sheena Meade, inside the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office as he registers to... ORLANDO, UNITED STATES-JANUARY 08: Desmond Meade, right, is accompanied by his daughter, Xcellence Meade, center, and his wife, Sheena Meade, inside the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office as he registers to vote after ex-felons regained their voting rights in the state Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack for The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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September 23, 2020 6:06 p.m.

Florida’s GOP officials will stop at nothing to prevent ex-felons from regaining the right to vote.

Florida’s Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a letter Wednesday that she was requesting an investigation into the efforts by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others to pay off the court fees that were preventing, under a controversial GOP law, ex-felons from regaining their franchise.

The letter, which was reported by WRLN reporter Danny Rivero, was sent to federal and state law enforcement officials. Moody said in it that she had initially looked into Bloomberg’s efforts at the request of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

In a statement via her spokesperson, Moody confirmed the request and said that she had “instructed the Statewide Prosecutor to work with law enforcement and any Statewide Grand Jury that the Governor may call.”

DeSantis’ office did not respond to TPM’s inquiry.

The move is the latest example of the ruthlessness Florida’s Republican leaders have employed in trying to undermine a constitutional amendment, approved overwhelmingly by Florida voters in 2018, restoring voting rights to ex-felons.

After its approval, Florida GOP lawmakers rushed to pass legislation requiring that ex-felons pay off all fines and fees, a particularly daunting requirement given that the state has no centralized way of tracking felons’ outstanding legal debts.

A federal judge partially blocked the law last year and in May, after a trial this spring, deemed the law unconstitutional. Using an uncommon procedural move, the state fast-tracked the case to the full 11th U.S. Court of Appeals — skipping the three judge panel that had largely backed the trial judge’s handling of the case. The full 11th Circuit, by a majority made up almost entirely of Trump appointees, formally reversed the trial judge’s ruling, prompting the push by Bloomberg and others to raise money for the fund set up to pay off the fines.

“Florida created an unconstitutional system that prohibits people from voting until their debts are paid,” said Julie Ebenstein, an ACLU attorney involved in the case against the law. “Now the state is objecting to those debts being paid. The state seems intent on preventing voting, rather than collecting payment.”

Read Moody’s letter below:

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