Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ election police announce 20 arrests for voter fraud

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that 20 people who voted in the 2020 election will be arrested and charged Thursday with violating the state’s felon voting laws.

The measure was described as the “opening salvo” of the Office of Election Crimes and Security, created by DeSantis and approved by the Florida Legislature. Some fear the office may discourage minorities and other communities from voting. The office began its work on July 1.

DeSantis said the 20 people arrested were convicted of murder or sexual 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 ballot measure that passed overwhelmingly in 2018 that restores voting rights to felons in the state, with the exception of those convicted of rape or murder.

“They didn’t go through any process. They didn’t get their rights back and yet they went ahead and voted anyway. That’s against the law and now they’re going to pay the price,” DeSantis said at a press conference . Thursday. “These people we’re going after are outside the contours of the 4th amendment.”

The potential penalty is up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

DeSantis also said the Office of Election Crimes and Security would also look into voters who were undocumented when they voted 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 be working constructively on this, and so far, they haven’t been. We have an obligation to make sure that American citizens vote.”

Cecile Scoon, president of the nonpartisan Florida League of Women Voters, said there are still open questions about the election crimes office, including how law enforcement will be used and whether the their presence in the electoral centers.

“It’s potentially a threat to people. Do they feel that these police, how are they going to be used? Are they going to be on people’s shoulders?” she said

Scoon added that he was concerned that after DeSantis’ recent removal of State Attorney Andrew Warren from office, supervisors and election officials could be next.

“That was a red flag to me. Because I had removed a person from office, there was a concern about what was going on? What’s going on?” Scoon said.

News of the arrests comes at a time when many Republicans still believe there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, a claim perpetuated by former President Donald Trump. A July CBS News poll showed 69 percent of Republicans believe it it was widespread electoral fraud in 2020, despite the rejection of nearly 70 legal challenges, according to the Stanford-MIT Healthy Choices Project.

“We must have elected leaders who ensure free and fair elections while also assuring our public and citizens that they can have confidence in the election process,” said Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd. “I’m sure this will allay fears that behind the scenes, within state government, people are ignoring violations of the law. That’s not the case.”

Multiple Republican candidates on the November ballot have indicated they have doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, including at least nine of the 24 candidates for secretary of state, often the state’s top election official, according to a CBS News report. analysis

DeSantis has often said Florida’s 2020 election was very safe and praised the state’s quick ballot count, compared to other battleground states that took much longer.

But he has also shared the stage with candidates who believe the election was stolen, such as the Arizona gubernatorial candidate. Lake Kari and candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania Doug Mastriano.

“Potential 2024 presidential candidate DeSantis is running for re-election this fall. Florida’s primary is Tuesday, Aug. 23, but he’s running unopposed.”

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Aaron Navarro

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