Oct 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

New police footage shows confusion over DeSantis' voter fraud arrests

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waits to speak during a press conference.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Newly released police body-camera footage obtained by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald shows how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial voter fraud arrests unfolded in August.

Why it matters: The police footage shows the level of concern and confusion over who is allowed to vote in Florida, and comes as several notable Republicans have made claims of widespread voter fraud ahead of the 2022 midterms.

Context: In August, DeSantis announced the arrest of 20 people who he said were barred from voting due to their criminal records.

  • The arrested individuals were disqualified from voting "after they were convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense," according to a statement from DeSantis at the time.
  • Because of this, the individuals were charged with voter fraud, which can lead to a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison, DeSantis said.
  • DeSantis' office and the Office of Election Crimes and Security did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment Tuesday.

The latest: The footage from the Times and Herald showed the arrest of Tony Patterson by state police officers and local law enforcement. The officers explain the arrest to Patterson, who is visibly confused about why he's being charged.

  • “What is wrong with this state, man?” Patterson says in the video. “Voter fraud? Y’all said anybody with a felony could vote, man.”

Details: In a separate video, one of the officers involved in Patterson's arrest expresses confusion as well.

  • “Why would you let me vote if I wasn’t able to vote?” Patterson asks.
  • “I’m not sure, buddy,” the officer replied. “I don’t know.”
  • Later in the video, the officer, while appearing to speak on the phone with someone else, says: “I’ve never seen these charges before in my entire life.”

What they're saying: "The president believes that people who are not incarcerated for a felony should have their voting rights restored automatically," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday when asked about the footage.

  • "[The president] has repeatedly called on the Senate to pass comprehensive voting rights legislation that would do just that," she added.

The big picture: Florida state law does not allow people convicted of murder or felony sex offenses to vote after completing their sentence, per the Times.

  • A 2018 state amendment restored the right to vote for many felons, but not that specific group.
  • This has created massive confusion among Florida residents, with many residents saying nobody told them they couldn't vote.
  • DeSantis' new agency aims to investigate election crimes in the wake of former President Donald Trump's false claims of mass voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Go deeper: Floridians charged with voting illegally in 2020 election speak out

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

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