Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s election police unit has faced criticism after many of the initial 20 arrests for voter fraud have stumbled in court. Six cases have been dismissed, and five other defendants accepted plea deals that resulted in no jail time. Only one case has gone to trial, resulting in a split verdict, and the others are pending. The charges were targeting former convicts who weren’t eligible to vote, but many of the Floridians who had been arrested were notified by government entities that they were eligible to cast ballots.
One of the accused, Peter Washington, lost his job supervising irrigation projects and his family’s health insurance after being charged with voter fraud. His wife dropped out of virtual classes at Florida International University to help pay their rent. “It knocked me to my knees, if you want to know the truth,” Washington said. However, the case against Washington began falling apart when a judge ruled that the prosecutor who filed the charges did not have jurisdiction to do so, and Washington’s attorney noted that he received an official voter identification card in the mail after registering. In February, the case was dismissed.
Those who had their cases dismissed said that the personal damage was still far-reaching. Some lost jobs and are now struggling to pay bills, while others saw their mug shots end up splashed on television. The charges have come under scrutiny, with critics arguing that they are dubious and have disproportionately targeted Black and Hispanic voters. The accusations have also been seen as an attempt to suppress voter turnout in Florida, which has a history of voter suppression.
The charges have raised concerns about the role of the governor’s election police unit and its effectiveness in targeting voter fraud. Some have argued that the unit was created for political purposes, as DeSantis has been a vocal supporter of former president Donald Trump and his claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Others have called for an investigation into the unit’s tactics and the charges that were brought against voters.
The case against Washington and the other accused voters highlights the need for fair and accessible voting rights in Florida and across the United States. The right to vote is a fundamental aspect of democracy, and efforts to suppress or intimidate voters undermine the democratic process. It is crucial that steps are taken to ensure that all eligible voters are able to cast their ballots without fear of reprisal or intimidation.
0. “The first arrests from DeSantis’s election police take extensive toll” The Washington Post, 1 May. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/04/30/desantis-election-police-arrests-florida/
1. “Consequences of DeSantis’ election crimes office come into focus” MSNBC, 2 May. 2023, https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/maddowblog/consequences-desantis-election-crimes-office-come-focus-rcna82397
2. “He lost his job and health insurance after his arrest under a DeSantis election unit. The case was dismissed” The Independent, 1 May. 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/desantis-voter-fraud-arrest-charges-b2330471.html