Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s new election police unit created to crack down on felons who allegedly broke the law by casting a ballot has faced criticism after many of the initial 20 arrests made by the Office of Election Crimes and Security have stumbled in court. Six cases have been dismissed, and five other defendants accepted plea deals that resulted in no jail time. A single case was brought to trial and the verdict was split. The others are still pending.
Among the most obvious problems with these dubious charges is that the Floridians who were arrested had been notified by government entities that they were eligible to vote. Peter Washington, an Orlando resident, was one of those charged with voter fraud and lost his job supervising irrigation projects. His wife dropped out of university to help pay their rent, and their future plans went out the window. When the case against Washington began falling apart, a judge from Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit ruled that the statewide prosecutor who filed the charges did not have jurisdiction to do so. Washington’s attorney also noted that he had received an official voter identification card in the mail after registering, and the case was dismissed in February.
Those who eventually 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 who had fought to rebuild tarnished reputations after past crimes saw their mug shots end up splashed on television.
The impact of these false charges is not limited to the individuals who were wrongly accused. The Office of Election Crimes and Security’s actions have raised questions about the motivations behind the unit’s creation and whether it was intended to intimidate voters, particularly those who had previously been convicted of crimes. The unit’s creation followed a 2018 referendum that restored voting rights to many felons, and some have accused DeSantis of attempting to suppress the votes of those who would be more likely to vote for Democrats.
The fallout from these charges highlights the importance of ensuring that voter fraud investigations are conducted thoroughly and fairly, with a focus on protecting the rights of eligible voters rather than punishing those who may have made honest mistakes. It also underscores the need for greater accountability and oversight of law enforcement agencies to prevent abuses of power and protect the rights of citizens.
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. “He lost his job and health insurance after his arrest under a DeSantis election unit. The case was dismissed” Yahoo News, 1 May. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/lost-job-health-insurance-arrest-210211368.html
2. “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