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With the 2020 presidential election quickly approaching, John Legend and Camila Cabello have teamed up for crowdfunding campaign Free the Vote, which aims to restore voting rights in Florida for the formerly convicted.
Earlier this month, a Florida court ruled that those with felony convictions in Florida are required to pay off all of their fees and fines before they are allowed to vote, putting 700,000 possible voters in jeopardy. The two music stars have acted in response as Florida’s voter registration deadline looms on Oct. 5, with public support from Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Schumer, Kerry Washington, Uzo Abuda and Sacha Baron Cohen. Since its Tuesday launch, the campaign has received more than 5,000 donations amounting to over $400,000.
“I am so proud to call Florida my home. It is full of unique and compassionate people from all backgrounds and lived experiences,” Cabello tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Voting is one of the most important ways Americans can make their voices heard. It is this diversity of voices and experiences that makes the state such a special place to live, and every single one of those voices — including returning citizens — deserves to be heard and counted.
“Florida’s pay-to-vote system unjustly prevents some formerly convicted individuals from casting their ballots,” she adds. “This system also disproportionately impacts people of color, creating obstacles for these communities as they try to exercise their right to vote.”
In 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4, which ended the state’s lifetime ban on voting for former felons who completed their parole or probation periods and were not convicted of murder or sexual offenses. Legislators tried to limit the new law by imposing the fees and fines requirement, which was struck down in court, but then upheld on appeal Sept. 11.
Aside from the public campaign, Legend has also quietly helped raise more than $20 million for the cause from private donors including Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg, Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg, Michael Bloomberg and LeBron James for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. More than 56,000 donations have been made to the organization, with the goal of raising $25 million.
“As our democracy is under attack by so many, including the president, a bipartisan supermajority of the people of Florida voted for Amendment 4 in order to expand democracy to returning citizens who had already served their sentences,” Legend said in a statement. “Reaching this [$20 million] milestone means more Floridians will be able to help chart the direction of this nation’s future. While historians may look back at this moment and criticize the courts for allowing a pay-to-vote system, I hope they will also tell the story of how people across the country came together to extend and protect our democracy.”
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