Thursday, twenty individuals who voted in the 2020 election will be detained and charged for violating the state’s election regulations regarding felon voting rights, as announced by Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis.
The move was hailed as the “first salvo” for the Office of Election Crimes and Security, which DeSantis and the Florida legislature established. Some believe that the office could discourage voting among minorities and other communities. The office started operations on July 1.
The majority of the twenty people detained were from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, according to DeSantis, all of them were convicted of murder or sexual assault. He said that they were not among those whose voting rights were restored by “Amendment 4,” a 2018 ballot initiative that restores voting rights to convicts in the state, except for those convicted of rape or murder. “They did not undergo any procedure. Despite not having their privileges restored, they proceeded to vote anyhow. That is illegal, and they will now have to pay the price for it “Thursday, DeSantis stated at a news conference. These individuals are outside the bounds of Amendment 4 and are being investigated.
The maximum possible sentence is five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
DeSantis added that the Office of Election Crimes and Security would also investigate unauthorized immigrants who cast ballots in 2020. In 2020, little about 11 million Floridians voted.
“This is only the first stage,” stated DeSantis. “There will be foreign nationals present. We would want to see the federal government working constructively on this, but this has not been the case thus far. We have a responsibility to ensure that U.S. citizens vote.”
Cecile Scoon, president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Florida, stated that there are still unanswered questions regarding the election crimes office, including how law enforcement would be deployed and whether their presence will be noticed at the polling stations.
“It poses a hazard to individuals. They believe these police — how will they be utilized? Will they be standing atop people’s shoulders?” She stated,
Scoon noted that he was concerned that election supervisors and officials could be next, given DeSantis’ recent removal of State Attorney Andrew Warren from office.
“That was a warning sign for me. Because he had removed one individual from office, there was fear about what might happen next. What’s happening?” Scoon said.
The news of the arrests comes at a time when many Republicans continue to feel that the 2020 election was marred by rampant fraud, a narrative propagated by former President Donald Trump. According to the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project, a July CBS News poll revealed that 69% of Republicans believe there was widespread voter fraud in 2020, despite the rejection of nearly 70 legal challenges.
Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd stated, “We must have elected officials that guarantee free and fair elections and assure our public and residents that they may have faith in the electoral process.” “I am confident that this will alleviate concerns that state government employees are ignoring infractions of the law behind the scenes. That is not the situation.”
At least nine of the twenty-four Republican nominees for secretary of state, frequently the highest election authority in the state, have expressed reservations about the legitimacy of the 2020 elections, according to an analysis by CBS News.
DeSantis has frequently asserted that the 2020 elections in Florida were extremely secure, and he has lauded the state’s rapid ballot count in comparison to other battleground states that took significantly longer.
However, he has shared the stage with candidates who believe the election was stolen, such as Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano.
“This fall, DeSantis, a prospective presidential candidate in 2024, is up for reelection. The primaries in Florida are on Tuesday, August 23, but he is unchallenged.”