There’s not one piece on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political stunt of an election-police task force that we’ve published in the past year or so that didn’t spell out in greater detail what we’ve seen to be true since the beginning: that this sham election crimes force was created for the purposes of boosting DeSantis’ 2024 bid and scaring certain voters away from the polls.
This new reporting from the Orlando Sentinel only adds to that rather solid hypothesis.
From the new local report:
A Republican state attorney last May declined to prosecute six voter fraud cases that involved circumstances strikingly similar to the cases later brought against 20 ex-felons by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ election police unit and statewide prosecutors.
The office of State Attorney Bill Gladson, whose district includes The Villages and five Republican counties, confirmed six convicted sex offenders in Lake County had voted in the 2020 general election, according to a determination letter obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.
Gladson and his staff concluded, however, that the cases could not be prosecuted because the fraud was not willful — a rationale that attorneys say applies equally to many of the voter fraud cases currently being pursued by the Office of Statewide Prosecution.
This news obviously rubs up against what we saw play out in Democratic counties in Florida in the last year, after DeSantis announced the arrest of 20 formerly incarcerated residents — mostly Black and mostly from south Florida — in August 2022 for allegedly voting illegally. While the 2018 passage of Amendment 4 restored the voting rights of most former felons in Florida, all of those arrested were still ineligible to vote.
In each of the 20 cases, however, the arrestees had been cleared by the state of Florida to cast a ballot and were issued voter ID cards — and so each voted assuming they were free to participate, only to be arrested a few months later. Each of the former felons who voted illegally in the Republican county had the same experience, but Gladson’s office declined to prosecute because the evidence failed “to show willful actions on the part of these individuals. Therefore, the State is unable to file charges,” according to the May 2022 letter from Gladson’s office obtained by the Sentinel.
Nearly every single one of the cases brought by DeSantis’ election police force has ended in dismissal because the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor did not have the authority to prosecute an offense that occurred in only one county. But Republicans in Florida’s state legislature passed a bill into law that’ll make it easier for that office to net prosecutions moving forward. Florida Republicans have also pushed to expand the election crimes task force’s budget.
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