Gov. DeSantis announces 20 arrests for illegal voting across Florida
Governor Ron DeSantis today announced that 20 people in Florida have been charged with voting illegally in the 2020 election.
He said they were previously convicted of murder or felony sex crimes and therefore are not allowed to vote. Florida voters passed Amendment Four in 2018, allowing some people with past felony convictions to vote.
"They are disqualified from voting because they have been convicted of either murder or sexual assault and they do not have the right to vote. They have been disenfranchised under Florida law," he said to a large group of supporters in the Broward County courtroom.
"They did not go through any process. They did not get their rights restored and yet they went ahead and voted anyway."
Many of the 20 were from South Florida, but the group also includes people from the Tampa and Orlando areas.
DeSantis made the announcement alongside the new Election Crimes and Security Office Director Peter Antonacci, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Secretary of State Cord Byrd and Mark Glass, the acting commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Glass said FDLE agents started making arrests early Thursday morning, “with arrest warrants in hand.”
“Today is about our honest, hardworking and law-abiding Floridians, and our message to you is simple: in Florida, your vote counts,” he added.
Antonacci, the former Supervisor of Elections for Broward County, was chosen by DeSantis in July to head a new elections investigation office.
Both said they expected more charges against people who illegally voted to come out in the future.
“So this is the first step of it, you'll see more of these actions. And you'll see more of these actions until the people who are behind it, quit promoting it,” Antonacci said, not specifying which groups he was speaking about.
“And the people that want to take risks know that there is a downside risk to voting when you're not eligible to vote.“
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which led the Amendment 4 effort, issued an expansive statement in response to the arrests.
“Amendment 4 is very clear on who is eligible and who is not eligible to vote. When someone registers to vote, it is the responsibility of the state to determine an individual’s eligibility prior to issuing a voter identification card," said Executive Director Desmond Meade and Deputy Director Neil Volz.
"Unfortunately, that is not how the process currently works for people impacted by Amendment 4. That’s why we hope the state starts to invest as much energy, if not more, on the front end of the election process as the back end of the process. That means fixing the system to prevent situations like this and spending tax dollars to investigate and prosecute Florida citizens. It is less costly and easier to prevent these situations from happening in the first place.
Volz and Meade say the state has no statewide system to check whether people have had their voting eligibility restored, or flag those who have not completed all the requirements for voting rights restoration.
"Until there is a system in place to assure voter eligibility, we will continue to work with state leaders to improve the system. We believe that anyone who wants to participate in democracy and genuinely believes that they are eligible should not be punished because of the state’s confusing voter system. If Floridians can not rely on the government to verify their eligibility, who can they rely on?”
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