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Newly obtained police body camera video shows Tampa Police officers arresting confused and stunned convicted felons in August 2022 for allegedly voting illegally in the 2020 election.
On August 18, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested 20 individuals accused of illegally voting in the 2020 election.
Out of the 20 people arrested that day—at least 13 of them were Black, according to the Tampa Bay Times. They were all accused of violating a state law that does not automatically allow people convicted of murder or felony sex offenses to vote after their sentences are completed. “They did not get their rights restored, and yet they went ahead and voted anyway,” DeSantis said at the time. “That is against the law, and now they’re going to pay the price for it. As convicted murderers and felony sex offenders, none of the individuals were eligible to vote.”
Utter confusion among Florida voters over DeSantis’s latest publicity stunt
“I voted, but I ain’t commit no fraud,” Romona Oliver can be heard saying on police body cam video obtained from the Tampa Police Department. “I got out. The guy told me that I was free and clear to go vote or whatever because I had done my time,” she said. Oliver’s attorney says she received a voter registration card and thought she was eligible to vote.
Mark Rankin, a Tampa-based attorney, who is representing Oliver pro-bono, told CNN that Oliver served almost 20 years in state prison for a conviction for second degree murder.
Matt Dixon, Politico’s Florida bureau chief, states, “Most of these folks did get to register, their paperwork went through local county elections officials. Then it went to the Florida Department of State which administers elections statewide. And for whatever reason, it kind of slipped through the cracks during that process. They’re supposed to be flagged as ineligible felons and not allowed to vote. And that didn’t seem to happen here. So they got voter cards, which for most of the folks who voted, seemed like a government-sanctioned signal that their rights to vote had been restored. So they went and voted.”
Voter fraud, like CRT, is a figment of GOP imagination
According to Vanity Fair, the arrests marked the first public demonstration of the Florida Office of Election Crimes and Security, a controversial new investigative agency created this year and championed by DeSantis to probe voting irregularities. Created under a sweeping bill passed this year with massive racial overtones, the office was given a staff of 15 to initiate probes and allowed DeSantis to assign 10 state law enforcement officers to help investigate election crimes.
Much like Critical Race Theory, which isn’t taught in public schools, similarly the GOP looks to eliminate voter fraud, even if there’s none there. A study published by a Columbia University political scientist tracked incidence rates for voter fraud for two years, and found that the rare fraud that was reported generally could be traced to “false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.”
An Associated Press review of every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by former President Donald Trump has found fewer than 475 — a number that would have made no difference in the 2020 presidential election.
DeSantis continued to defend the arrests and in a later news conference blamed some local election offices who, he said, “just don’t care about the election laws.”
The law that implemented the constitutional amendment specified that an ineligible felon who erroneously votes is in violation of the law if they “willfully submit any false voter registration information.” State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican and the sponsor of that legislation, has said on social media that most convicted felons have no intent to break the law.
The 20 individuals were charged with committing a third-degree felony, which carries up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
Desperate to rile up the base, cater to Trump’s agenda, and look tough on crime, DeSantis is willing to go as low as he can to ensure Florida’s Black voters feel intimidated, disenfranchised, and overtly targeted in his pursuit of power.