April 2, 2023

OneAs he neared the end of his 10-year sentence, Peter Washington took an “assimilation” course to prepare for life after incarceration, including the possibility of restoring his voting rights.

After his release, he received a voter registration form in the mail, filled it out and sent it back to the Orange County Office of Elections Oversight. He then received a voter card in the mail from the Orange County election supervisor.

Washington, believing it had just won the right to vote, voted with his wife at an early polling place during the 2020 presidential election.

Nearly two years later, on Aug. 28, deputies from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office arrested the 59-year-old black man and charged him with voter fraud as an “ineligible voter,” a third-degree felony .

Washington is among 20 people who have been convicted of murder and sex crimes after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced “public action” against voter fraud in the state Felony – Arrested and charged with voting illegally, a third-degree felony.

But court records and police reports are independent It appeared to indicate that someone vilified by the DeSantis administration and targeted in a high-profile campaign-style press conference — the first result of a new $1.1 million agency under the governor’s office — was elected Staff or other government officials inform them that they have the right to vote.

The defendants said they did not intend to commit a crime, believed recent constitutional amendments gave them the right to vote, and were confused and frustrated about whether they had done anything wrong.

Defendants in each case reported that the county election office or some government official or agency suggested they could register to vote. People convicted of murder or sex crimes remain ineligible.

Their cases magnify the complexities of voting rights for felony convicts — and reflect a turbulent political minefield after Florida voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights in 2018.

Voting rights advocates stress that the recent arrests have exposed a loophole in a system that was supposed to prevent so-called illegal voting in the first place.

In 2019, Michelle Stribling filled out a voter registration form and received her registration card in the mail in November to vote in the 2020 election.

She was charged with fraud on August 17.

The 52-year-old black woman told investigators she “can’t read or write well” and didn’t understand voter registration issues related to her right to vote

“Stribling believes her rights have been restored because she completed her voter registration application and received her voter registration card,” an affidavit said.

Leo Grant, a 55-year-old black man from Palm Beach County, told investigators that local election administrators sent him a voter ID card and that he voted by mail in November 2020.

“I really don’t get it, how did I fake it?” Granted told miami herald The second day of the Governor’s press conference. “I don’t know anything about these things.”

“This underscores the importance of fixing the system, and we’re paying a real human cost to a broken system,” Neil Woz, director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, told Reuters independent.

“We should have a statewide database that verifies eligibility on the front end, and none of these people are in this situation,” he said. “We don’t have this conversation in the context of a political campaign. We’re probably just trying to figure things out.”

Ron DeSantis announces 20 arrests for alleged voter fraud

Attorney Larry S Davis, representing a man arrested in Miami-Dade County, Tell politics His client was arrested at 6am when a team of heavily armed police officers knocked on his door.

“He was wearing underwear and they didn’t let him get dressed until he was sent to prison,” Mr Davis told politics“There were armed men in his backyard, they used helicopters. Disturbed the whole community early in the morning.”

Mr. Davis said his clients were required to register to vote at a local Walmart store and even prevented election workers from telling them he didn’t believe he was eligible because of his previous felony conviction.

Mr Davis said the person told him that the passage of Amendment 4 in 2018 — which paved the way for the restoration of voting rights for about a million people with felony convictions — gave him the right to vote.

“They helped him fill out the paperwork. He later got a voter card and thought he could vote. That was two years ago,” Mr Davis said.

The governor’s press conference centered on the newly created Office of Election Crime and Safety, the first of its kind under the governor’s direction, and voting rights groups warned it was “finding solutions to problems” and that there were potential dangers that could A political tool used to intimidate voters.

Opponents argue that the resources to investigate and prosecute allegations of fraud already exist and that the scope is not yet close to changing the outcome of the election.

“But we have this process now where we’re not clearing anyone on the front end, giving them a voter ID and then waiting years to arrest and prosecute them. It’s not the kind of system that shouts ‘we have integrity’. We Both want the integrity of the electorate. So let’s work together on the front end,” Mr Woz told independent.

independent The governor’s office has been asked for comment.

Protesters outside the Broward County Courthouse in Florida on August 18

(Michelle Eve Sandberg/Shutterstock)

In 2020, the state received 262 electoral fraud complaints; 75 were referred to law enforcement. More than 11 million Florida voters participated in that year’s presidential election.

While the cases are moving forward with prosecution, including the recent arrest of four people in The Villages, a Republican stronghold retirement community, the governor claimed that without his election crime office, “nothing would have been prosecuted and nothing would have happened.”

Earlier this year, two men from The Villages – Jay Ketcik and Charles Barnes – admitted to casting more than one vote in that year’s election.

Ketcik is one of three Republican voters from The Villages charged in December 2021 with voting twice in the 2020 presidential election. Barnes is the fourth person in The Villages to be arrested for double voting in that election.

Pete Antonacci, who was appointed by the governor to head the Office of Election Crime and Security, also claimed without evidence in a news conference that there was “a close Democratic primary in the county last year” A large number of illegal votes”.

After the passage of the 4th Amendment, state legislators also narrowed those rights to those who paid all outstanding fines, and voting rights advocates criticized the “pay-to-vote” system that largely affects the poor minority Groups return to public life.

“A lot of people have to choose between putting food on the table and voting. We just think we can have a better system than that,” Mr Woz told independent.

Earlier this month, a group of Democratic attorneys general from 16 states and Washington, D.C. urged a federal appeals court to strike down Florida’s mail-in ballot drop-box restrictions under another 2021 law that Republican-led Donald Trump has imposed. One of Trump’s election laws. Trump has consistently falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was influenced by fraud.

“No one questions that it is in the national interest to combat voter fraud,” they wrote in the briefing. “But voting limits must be genuinely designed to advance that interest and reasonably adjusted to the scope of the issue.”

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