LeBron James' new nonprofit commits to pay fines for former felons looking to vote in Florida

A GOP-led legislature imposed hurdles despite voters' decision in 2018.

More Than A Vote, the voting rights group founded by LeBron James and other star athletes, is joining the fight over felon voting rights playing out in Florida. The nonprofit is committing to help pay outstanding fines and fees for former felons seeking to vote in November.

James' group plans to donate $100,000 to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, one of the key organizations behind the 2018 ballot measure that restored the right to vote to the felon population in the state. The money will help ex-felons pay off any outstanding court debts associated with their convictions so they can register to vote.

The financial hurdle was not initially part of Amendment 4, the measure that passed two years ago, but after a majority of Florida voters reenfranchised felons, the Republican-led legislature imposed restrictions on the amendment, including obligating felons pay back fines and fees before they can register to vote.

"We believe that your right to vote shouldn’t depend upon whether or not you can pay to exercise it," Udonis Haslem, a forward for the Miami Heat and More Than A Vote member, said in a statement.

The donation appears to only be the start of the partnership between More Than A Vote and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, with the release noting that "additional announcements on the partnership ... will follow in the coming weeks."

The battle over felon voting rights in Florida spilled outside the legislature and into the courts with voting rights organizations at odds with Republicans in the state over the law that narrowed the interpretation of the ballot measure.

A U.S. District Court judge in late May sided with former felons, calling the law a "pay-to-vote" system. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which put a stay on the ruling.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, denied a request to lift a stay on the lower court's ruling. The Supreme Court's decision keeps in place the restrictions, which make it more difficult for former felons to vote, and the 11th circuit court plans to hold a hearing on Aug. 18, the same day as Florida's down-ballot primaries.

James' organization is also teaming up with Magnolia Pictures and Participant to host an ongoing online screenings of "John Lewis: Good Trouble," with proceeds going to the FRRC’s fines and fees fund.

More Than A Vote was founded last month, in the wake of protests over the police killing of George Floyd, to encourage Black voters to head to the polls and combat voter suppression in the community.