Aug 31, 2022 - News

Ron DeSantis' voter fraud hunt backfires

Illustration of Ron DeSantis looking through a broken magnifying glass.
Photo Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Elections officials across Florida are poking holes in the DeSantis administration's claims that they're to blame after 20 people were arrested for voting illegally.

Driving the news: Supervisors of elections in Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties say it's the state's responsibility to notify local election offices about people ineligible to vote because of certain prior felony convictions, Politico reports.

  • Pete Antonacci, who DeSantis appointed as head of his elections investigation office, contradicted the governor's claims by telling local election supervisors in a letter earlier this month that they were not at fault in allowing the felons to vote in 2020.

Why it matters: If the charges don't stick, DeSantis will have egg on his face after making a show of the arrests to tout ​​his new election security task force.

  • Some of the people arrested have said they thought they were allowed to vote.
  • In 2018, Florida voters approved a ballot measure to restore the voting rights of people with prior felony convictions. Alas, it excepted people who had convictions for murder or a felony sex offense.
  • A lawyer for one of the Miami-Dade defendants told reporter Politico's Matt Dixon that police dragged his client out of his home in his underwear for the arrest.

What they're saying: "His own administration greenlighted the defendants' voter registration applications, and now it has arrested them for voting," Slate reporter Mark Joseph Stern writes. "That doesn't look like election security. It looks like entrapment."

  • Stern points out that Antonacci was Broward County's supervisor of elections when the recently arrested voters registered there.

Neil Volz, deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, told NPR Florida law requires "the state to prove that someone willfully, intentionally, knowingly registered or voted while knowing that they were ineligible."

  • But voting rights advocates warn that often in criminal prosecutions, those charged plead guilty to avoid a jury trial.
  • "If you can't count on the government to tell you if you are eligible to vote, then who can you count on?" Volz asked.
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