- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg raised $16 million to pay outstanding fees for 32,000 felons in Florida, making them eligible to vote in November.
- The move comes about a week after an appeals court upheld a law that requires felons to pay all outstanding fees before they can vote, effectively preventing hundreds of thousands of people from casting ballots in the crucial swing state.
- That court ruling follows years of legal battles over a ballot measure passed overwhelmingly by Florida voters in 2018 which allowed most felons to vote after they completed their parole and probation periods.
- Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz claimed Bloomberg’s actions were illegal, saying they are considered providing “something of value to impact whether or not someone votes,” and called for the matter to be investigated.
Florida Voting Rights
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) claimed Tuesday that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg acted illegally when he helped raise $16 million to cover the court debts of felons in Florida so that they could be eligible to vote in the November election.
Bloomberg’s contribution comes after a years-long legal battle in Florida concerning the voting rights of felons.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a measure in 2018 to end the state’s lifetime ban on most felons voting. That measure, known as Amendment 4, effectively restored the voting rights of felons who had completed their parole and probation periods, with the exception of those who had been convicted of sex crimes or of murder. Around 1.5 million people — nearly 10% of the state’s adult population — were given the ability to vote.
Despite the fact that ending the ban had bipartisan support among Florida voters, shortly after Amendment 4 took effect, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature passed legislation requiring felons to pay off all outstanding debts in order to be eligible to vote, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law in June 2019.
Under the law, roughly 775,000 felons still who owed fines related to their convictions would not be able to vote until they paid them off. That number included some of the estimated 85,000 who had already registered to vote since Amendment 4 went into effect in January 2019.
However, the state offered almost no assistance for felons to determine how much they owed, or even if they owed anything at all. Officials even explicitly said it would take around six years to make a database for felons to look up their debts.
The Republican’s law immediately faced a number of legal challenges, and in May of this year, district court judge Robert Hinkle struck down the law, ruling that it was an unconstitutional “pay-to-vote system.”
In his decision, Hinkle argued that an “overwhelming majority” of the felons would not be able to pay their debts or even figure out how much they owed. He went so far as to say that the law amounted to a poll tax.
However, a federal appeals court blocked his order from going into effect while it considered the case, thus effectively allowing the law to stay in place. In July, the Supreme Court refused to overturn the federal appeals court’s decision to block felons from voting while they decided the case.
Then, just over a week ago, the appeals court delivered its final judgment, deciding in a 6-4 ruling that the Republican’s law was not unconstitutional, and that felons would be required to pay fees in order to vote.
The move prompted significant outrage, and civil rights groups representing the felons said they would keep fighting.
But with just weeks to go before the election — and even less time before Florida’s Oct. 5 voter registration deadline — it would be almost impossible for yet another full-scale legal battle to be resolved in their favor.
With little hope for any kind of sweeping legal change, many people instead began paying the fines felons owed so that they could vote. The effort, which has been spearheaded by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), specifically focuses on Black and Hispanic voters who are already registered and who owe debts that are less than $1,500.
According to the FRRC, the list of people who have donated to their cause includes Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and John Legend.
The largest donation so far, however, appears to be from Bloomberg and his team. The contribution, which the former mayor announced in a statement Tuesday, comes just after he pledged to give at least $100 million to elect Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Florida.
According to a memo accessed by The Washington Post, Bloomberg viewed the contribution as a more cost-effective way to get more Democratic votes in the state than persuading other voters.
“We have identified a significant vote share that requires a nominal investment. The data shows that in Florida, Black voters are a unique universe unlike any other voting bloc, where the Democratic support rate tends to be 90%-95%,” the memo allegedly read.
Although Bloomberg’s efforts are political, Desmond Meade, the president of the FRRC, emphasized in a statement to The Post that the group is nonpartisan and does not share Bloomberg’s goal of encouraging just one political party.
Gaetz Claims Bloomberg’s Donations are Illegal
While Meade said Bloomberg’s donation does not dictate how the FRRC is operating, others, including Gaetz, have raised legal questions regarding the move.
“[Under Florida law] it’s a third-degree felony for someone to either directly or indirectly provide something of value to impact whether or not someone votes. So the question is whether or not paying off someone’s fines and legal obligations counts as something of value, and it clearly does,” the representative explained when speaking with Fox New’s Sean Hannity Tuesday night.
“If Michael Bloomberg was offering to pay off people’s credit card debts, you would obviously see the value in that. When you improve someone’s net worth by eliminating their financial liabilities, that’s something of value.”
“I believe there may be a criminal investigation already underway of the Bloomberg-connected activities in Florida,” he added, noting that he had spoken with Florida’s Attorney General.
The existence of a criminal probe has not been confirmed by any law enforcement officials. Bloomberg, for his part, has not yet responded to the accusations.
In a matter as politically charged as felon voting rights, it is probable that both sides will pull out all the stops. Especially because, in a state as heavily contested as Florida, adding felons to the voter rolls could actually sway the election.
In 2016, President Donald Trump only won Florida in 2016 by 1.2 percentage points — less than 113,000 vote difference. Right now, polls from the state show Trump and Biden in a dead heat.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Politico) (The New York Post)
Trump Mocks Florida Gov. “Ron DeSanctimonious” Ahead of Possible 2024 Bid
The former president may announce a bid to take back the White House on Nov. 14, according to his inner circle.
Trump Concocts His Latest Nickname
From “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” to “Sleepy Joe” and “Crazy Bernie,” former president Donald Trump’s nicknames for his political opponents have been known for their punchy style, but Republicans found it hard to swallow his latest mouthful for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
“We’re winning big, big, big in the Republican Party for the nomination like nobody’s ever seen before,” he said Saturday at a rally in Pennsylvania. “Trump at 71, Ron DeSanctimonious at 10%.”
The former president drew rebuke from some allies and conservative commentators for driving a wedge through the GOP three days before the midterm elections.
“DeSantis is an extremely effective conservative governor who has had real policy wins and real cultural wins,” tweeted The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh. “Trump isn’t going to be able to take this one down with a dumb nickname. He better have more than that up his sleeve.”
“What an idiot,” wrote Rod Dreher, a senior editor at The American Conservative. “DeSantis is a far more effective leader of the Right than Trump was, if, that is, you expect a leader to get a lot done, rather than just talking about it and owning the libs.”
In April 2021, Trump said he would “certainly” consider making DeSantis his running mate for a potential 2024 presidential bid. But as DeSantis established himself as a credible rival to Trump, their relationship grew colder.
Last September, sources told The Washington Post that Trump had called DeSantis “ungrateful” in conversations with advisors. The former president reportedly had not spoken with the governor in months.
The Party of Trump or DeSantis?
One day after his “DeSanctimonious” jab, Trump took to the stage in Florida to support Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R) reelection campaign but grabbed more attention when he seemed to endorse DeSantis for governor.
“The people of Florida are going to reelect the wonderful, the great friend of mine, Marco Rubio to the United States Senate, and you’re going to reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor of your state,” he said to the cheering crowd.
The brief moment of support was overshadowed, however, by the conspicuous absence of DeSantis himself.
Both men held competing, contemporaneous rallies in the same state hundreds of miles apart, and multiple sources told Politico that DeSantis was not invited to Trump’s event, nor did he ask to attend.
The governor has repeatedly refused to say whether he will make a run for the presidency in 2024, but national polling consistently puts Trump ahead of him among Republicans by a wide margin.
Some recent polls, however, have shown DeSantis to lead the former president in specific states like Florida and New Hampshire.
A survey last month found that 72% of GOP voters believe DeSantis should have a great or good deal of influence in the future direction of the party, while just 64% said the same about Trump.
Sources told Axios that Trump’s inner circle is discussing a Nov. 14 announcement for his presidential campaign, timing it to capitalize on the expected post-midterm euphoria as vote counts roll in.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (Politico)
The Midterms Are Tomorrow, But We May Not Have Results for a While. Here’s What You Need to Know
The counting of mail-in ballots and possible legal challenges will almost certainly slow the final results.
Election Delays Expected
As Americans gear up for Election Day on Nov. 8, experts are warning that many races, including some of the most highly anticipated ones, may not have the final results in for days or even weeks.
These delays are completely normal and do not indicate that election fraud or issues with vote counting took place. However, like in 2020, former President Donald Trump and other election-denying Republicans could seize on the slow-coming returns to promote false claims to that effect.
There are a number of very legitimate reasons why it could take some time before the final results are solidified. Each state has different rules for carrying out the election process, like when polls close and when ballots can start being counted.
There are also varying rules for when mail-in ballots can be received and counted that can extend when those votes will be tallied. That lag could seriously skew early results in many places because there has been a major rise in the number of people voting by mail.
Red Mirage, Blue Mirage
One very important thing to note is that the early returns seen on election night may not be representative of the final outcomes.
In 2020, there was a lot of talk about a “red mirage,” which is when ballots cast on election day and favoring Republicans are reported first while mail-in ballots used more by Democrats are counted later, creating the appearance that Republicans have a much wider lead.
That phenomenon may very well take place in several key battlegrounds that not only could decide the House and the Senate but also have incredibly consequential state-wide elections of their own.
For example, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, election officials cannot start counting mail-in and absentee ballots until Election Day.
Some experts have also speculated that a similar occurrence could occur in Georiga because the suburbs — which have shifted blue in recent years — report their results later than rural counties.
At the same time, there are also some states where the opposite might happen: a blue mirage that makes it seem like Democrats are doing better than they actually are.
Such a scenario is possible in Arizona, where election officials can process mail-in ballots as soon as they receive them, and where a similar trend played out in 2020.
Other Possible Slow-Downs
Beyond all that, there are a number of other factors that could delay when results are finalized.
For example, in Georgia, candidates need to get at least 50% of the vote to win, and if none do, then the top two are sent to a run-off election on Dec. 6. That is a very real possibility for the state’s closely-watched Senate race because there is a libertarian on the ballot who could siphon enough votes from Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock to keep them both below the 50% threshold.
In other words: if control of the Senate comes down to Georgia again — as it did in 2020 and which is a very real possibility — voters may not know the outcome until a month after the election.
Meanwhile, experts also say that legal battles over mail-in ballots could further delay results, or even go to the Supreme Court. According to The New York Times, before Election Day, over 100 lawsuits had already been filed.
In Pennsylvania, for example, the State Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of a lawsuit from Republican groups requesting that mail-in ballots that did not have dates on outer envelopes be invalidated, causing thousands of ballots to be set aside. Multiple rights groups are now suing to get that decision reversed.
DHS Confirms Paul Pelosi Attacker is a Canadian National in the U.S. Illegally
The suspect espoused many political conspiracy theories promoted by the American far-right and told investigators he wished to harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to send a message to other U.S. politicians.
Pelosi Attacker’s Immigration Issues
The man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi and trying to kidnap House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) is a Canadian national currently residing in the United States illegally, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) late Wednesday.
Law enforcement officials say the suspect embraced far-right conspiracies about U.S. politicians and told investigators he wanted to break the House Speaker’s kneecaps as a lesson to other members of Congress.
Despite his lack of citizenship, the man also allegedly told police he was on a “suicide mission” and had a list of state and federal lawmakers he wanted to target.
In its statement to the media, DHS said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had lodged a “detainer” on the suspect, which is a notice the agency intends to take custody of an individual who could be deported and requests it be notified before that person is released. The detainer, however, likely will not impact the case against him, because deportations are civil proceedings that happen after criminal cases are resolved.
According to several reports, federal records indicate the suspect came to the U.S. legally via Mexico in March 2008. Canadians who travel to America for business or pleasure are usually able to stay in the country for six months without a visa. DHS told The Washington Post the Canadian citizen was admitted as a “temporary visitor” traveling for pleasure.
Before the confirmation from DHS, there was some mixed reporting on how long the suspected attacker has been in America. On Monday, an anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press the man had legally entered in 2000 but stayed way after his visa expired.
One day later, The New York Times reported he was registered to vote in San Francisco County from 2002 to 2009, and even voted once in 2002.
Heightened Security Concerns
The new revelation comes as lawmakers are facing increased threats, prompting conversations about safety and security with a specific focus on the role of the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).
On Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that USCP security cameras trained on the Pelosi’s house actually captured the attack, but no one was watching. In a statement Wednesday, the agency said its command center has access to around 1,800 cameras and not all are watched constantly.
The Capitol Police also said that the Pelosi’s home is “actively” monitored “around the clock” when the Speaker is there, but not when she is in Washington.
As a result, many argued that there should be more security and surveillance for the second person in line for the presidency — especially given the threat of violence after the Jan. 6 insurrection and warnings from law enforcement ahead of the midterms.
That was echoed in a scathing letter yesterday sent to Capitol Police by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca.), who is one of the most senior Democrats in Congress and heads the Administration Committee.
In her letter, Lofgren noted that the agency “has previously reported to the committee that the speaker receives the most threats of any member of Congress,” and asked why that protection was not extended “to the spouses and/or other family members of the congressional leaders in the presidential line of succession.”
She questioned why the USCP had turned down an offer from the FBI for some of its officers to be part of terrorism task forces investigating threats against Congressmembers and why it had not made a formal agreement with San Francisco police for a car to be posted at the Pelosi’s home 24-hours a day as had been done in the months after Jan. 6.
Lofgren also inquired why the Capitol Police did not direct more threats against lawmakers for prosecution. She noted that members of Congress received at least 9,625 threats in 2021, but just 217 were referred.
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