Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that 20 people who voted in the 2020 election will be arrested Thursday and charged with violating the state’s electoral laws on criminals’ voting rights.
The move was described as the “opening salvo” for the Office of Election Crimes and Security created by DeSantis and approved by the Florida legislature. Some fear that the office can…. The agency started its work on 1 July.
DeSantis said the 20 people arrested had all been convicted of murder or assault and were mostly from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. He added that they were not among those whose voting rights were restored by “Amendment 4,” a voting measure passed overwhelmingly in 2018 that restores voting rights to criminals in the state, with the exception of those convicted of rape or murder.
“They didn’t go through a process. They didn’t get their rights back and yet they went ahead and voted. That’s against the law and now they’re going to pay the price,” DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday. “These people we are succeeding are outside the scope of Amendment 4.”
The possible penalty is up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
DeSantis also said the Bureau of Election Crimes and Security would also look at undocumented voters when they cast their ballot in 2020. Just under 11 million Floridians voted in 2020.
“This is just the first step,” DeSantis said. “There will be foreigners. We want the federal government to work constructively on this, and so far it hasn’t. We have a duty to make sure American citizens vote.”
Cecile Scoon, president of Florida’s impartial League of Women voters, said there are still open questions about the electoral crimes bureau, such as how law enforcement will be used and whether their presence will be felt at polling stations.
“It can threaten people. They feel this police – how are they going to be used? Are they going to stand over people’s shoulders?” she said.
Scoon added that he was concerned that following the recent removal of state attorney Andrew Warren by DeSantis, election officials and officials could be next.
“That was a red flag for me. Because he had one person removed from office, there was a concern about what’s next? What’s going on?” said Scoon.
The news of the arrests comes at a time when many Republicans still believe widespread fraud was committed in the 2020 election, a claim perpetuated by former President Donald Trump. A July CBS News poll found that 69% of Republicans believe therein 2020, despite the rejection of nearly 70 legal challenges, according to the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project.
“We need to have elected leaders who guarantee free and fair elections and also assure our public and citizens that they can have confidence in the electoral process,” said Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd. “I’m sure this will allay the fear that behind the scenes, within the state government, people are ignoring violations of the law. That’s not the case.”
Multiple Republican nominees on the November ballot have expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, including at least nine of the 24 nominees for secretary of state, often the highest-ranking election official in the state, according to a CBS News analysis.
DeSantis has often said that Florida’s 2020 elections were very safe, praising the state’s rapid counting of ballots, compared to other states on the battlefield that took much longer.
But he has also shared the stage with candidates who believe the election has been stolen, such as Arizona’s gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee
“DeSantis, a potential presidential candidate in 2024, is up for re-election this fall. The Florida primaries are Tuesday, August 23, but he is running unopposed.”