Battleground Florida: Soros-Funded Groups Work to Register 1.4 Million Ex-Felons Ahead of 2020

Prison reform
Brian van der BrugLos Angeles Times via Getty Images
AARON KLEIN

Progressive organizations, many financed by billionaire activist George Soros, are working overtime to restore voting rights for Florida’s nearly 1.4 million ex-felons as the nation’s biggest swing state seems poised to play a pivotal electoral role in the 2020 presidential race.

The current battle revolves around a Florida state amendment that was passed last year restoring voting rights for felons, with progressive groups opposing a local bill that would require the state’s ex-felons to first pay civil fines and court fees before registering to vote.

Florida’s Amendment Four was approved by voters during last year’s Midterm election.

The heavily Soros-funded American Civil Liberties Union and Brennan Center for Justice based in New York both served as consultants in drafting Amendment Four.

Soros’s Open Society Foundations donated $50 million to the ACLU. The Brennan Center has been the recipient of numerous grants from Soros’s Open Society Foundations totaling over $7,466,000 from 2000 to 2010 alone.

Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, helped lead activism that put Florida’s Amendment Four on the ballot last year, including a news-making petition to restore voting rights to the released felons. His group is currently opposing efforts to require the former felons to pay their court fees prior to regaining their voting abilities.

“When I looked out of the plane, I said somewhere down there’s an imaginary line that divides Florida from Georgia. And it reminds me of the days of slavery when all a slave had to do was cross an imaginary line to get to freedom,” Meade said, comparing the ex-felon registration drive to the fight against slavery.

“And I said there is no way in hell in the 2000s should any American citizen have to escape another state to experience their freedom and their democracy.”

Meade’s official bio boasts that in his capacity at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, he has “orchestrated the reorganization and incorporation of a coalition comprised of over 70 state and national organizations and individuals”

Meade’s coalition, formed to help the ex-felon voting efforts, is comprised of numerous Soros-financed activist organizations, including the ACLU, NAACP, PICO National Network, and the Florida chapter of the radical League of Women Voters.

Following the passage of Amendment Four, Representative James Grant authored the bill to guide the implementation of the amendment by helping to define criteria for the restoration of voting rights to the ex-felons. The legislation requires the former felons to pay their court fees and fines before being able to register to vote.

Grant’s bill passed the Florida House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice last month and could come to another vote as soon as this week.

“This bill is just flying directly in the face of what two-thirds of Florida voters said very clearly,” claimed Sean Morales-Doyle, an attorney at the Soros-funded Brennan Center.

Julie Ebenstein, a lawyer with the Voting Rights Project of the Soros-funded ACLU, claimed Grant’s bill is “truly untethered to the text of the amendment.”

“What this will do, in effect, is disenfranchise people who can’t afford to pay all of these obligations,” she argued.

Numerous Amendment Four defenders cite research conducted by the Sentencing Project, a national group focused on criminal justice issues. The Sentencing Project boasts it is funded by Soros’s Open Society Foundations as well as the Tides Foundation, to which Soros has contributed.

The restoration of voting rights to ex-felons comes alongside larger efforts by the Democratic Party and progressive organizations to deploy a massive ground game to Florida to register voters, increase turnout and lobby Floridians against President Donald Trump.

With its 29 Electoral College votes, Florida is the nation’s biggest swing state and is critical to Trump’s path to victory in the upcoming race. If statewide 2016 voting patterns are repeated, the Democratic candidate for president would be able to win the White House by capturing Florida and one other swing state — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin or Michigan.

Democrats seek to transform Florida’s current voter map of 4.96 million registered Democrats, 4.7 million Republicans and about 3.6 million voters with no declared party affiliation.

Failed gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announced his own Florida voter registration initiative committed to registering no less than one million new voters for 2020 while aiming to “evict Donald Trump” from the White House.

“We are going to commit ourselves to registering and engaging one million voters between now and 2020’s presidential election,” Gillum said last month in Miami, addressing his new group which calls itself Bring It Home Florida.

“The road to the White House runs through Florida,” added Gillum. “We can deny Donald Trump a second term right here in the state of Florida.”

“How many states can you say, by themselves, have the ability to deny this man a return to the White House?” Gillum asked. “I can’t think of a bigger, better, more important state than the state of Florida, than for us to send that message.”

Billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is reportedly putting capital into voter turnout and registration efforts in Florida and other swing states.

Mitch Stewart, a Bloomberg adviser who headed Barack Obama’s 2012 battleground strategy, told Politico:

As we looked at the gaps in the current ecosystem, we said, “Could we set something up right now that could provide the infrastructure, provide the data and technology to whomever the eventual nominee is so they’re not at such a disadvantage once the primary is over?” We can.

The Florida Democratic Party itself is reportedly planning to spend at least $2 million to register new voters. The party is seeking to hire full-time organizers and utilize the services of data science firms in their Florida efforts, Politico reported.

Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, said the party would work with Gillum on the drive to flip Florida. “As one of the more exciting leaders of our Party in Florida, we’re excited for Andrew Gillum to direct his energies toward registering voters and we are working closely with Mayor Gillum to ensure we meet aggressive goals to bring more Floridians into the democratic process,” Peñalosa said.

Gillum is leading Democratic efforts focused on implementing Amendment Four.

Writing at the Tampa Bay Times last Wednesday, Gillum argued that Grant’s legislation and other bills that would require ex-felons to pay their fines seeks to disenfranchise voters.

Gillum opined:

While supervisors of elections all across our state opened the rolls to ex-felons almost immediately, lawmakers moved swiftly to prevent our newly redeemed citizens from participating in democracy. They’ve resorted to the same tactics implemented in 1885 by Florida neo-confederates scared of the future and social equality — a poll tax. And make no mistake, that poll tax was effective in preventing minorities from participating in democracy and enriching our state for generations — and this one would be effective, too.

By requiring full monetary restitution to be paid before civil rights are restored, lawmakers would be unconstitutionally burdening reformed ex-felons attempting to participate in our society.

Gillum has been closely associated with like-minded progressive groups.

Breitbart News previously reported Gillum served as the director of a radical youth training organization whose mission was to challenge U.S. “predatory capitalism,” abolish the prison system, fight a “spiritual resistance” battle against “Christian hegemony,” redefine the meaning of “borders” while aiding “undocumented” aliens, and enact the “collective liberation” of “communities of color” amid what it described as the scourge of “white supremacy.”

Gillum’s group accused the U.S. of being a “colonialist” power perpetrating “structural violence” and “continued genocide.” It claimed conservatives in the U.S. judicial system were “justifying white supremacist policing practices.”

All of that extremist rhetoric and more was posted on the official “issues” sections of the organization’s website while Gillum not only served as its active director, but while his picture, position and bio were brandished on the same site on the “staff” page.

The organization in question is Young People For, or YP4, one of two youth training groups that Gillum directed and oversaw while he worked at the George Soros-financed People for the American Way, or PFAW, as a field organizer in 2002 and then Director of Youth Leadership Programs from 2005 until January 13, 2017. He departed PFAW just ahead of his gubernatorial run.

Also, Breitbart News reported Gillum graduated from an Oakland, California-based training school for progressive revolutionaries that has spawned a list of activists who have gone on to become the who’s who of the far-left leadership world, with many taking senior positions at organizations financed by Soros.

In scores of cases, graduates of the Rockwood Leadership Institute founded or directed notorious Soros-financed activist groups, such as Black Lives Matter, Media Matters for America, MoveOn.org and the Tides Foundation, one of the nation’s largest funders of progressive groups.

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.

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