Gov. DeSantis puts onus on felons, local Supervisors to follow Amendment 4

Judge-blocks-Floridas-wake-law-pushed-by-Gov-DeSantis
‘Under no possible construction of that amendment could somebody who is a convicted rapist or a convicted murderer be eligible to vote in the state of Florida.’

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants felons convicted of murder and sexual offenses to follow the proper steps to earn back their right to vote. But he says good luck on getting his approval.

Florida’s Republican Governor earlier this month announced the arrests of 20 felons who had been convicted of murder or sexual assault the new Office of Election Crimes and Security says were illegally registered to vote and cast ballots in the 2020 election. Reports by POLITICO and others showed local Election Supervisors did not notify the felons they were ineligible to vote, and the state did not notify the Supervisors of the suspects’ ineligibility, per a Department of State rule.

Although some of those arrested have said they were never told they couldn’t vote and even received voter registration cards, DeSantis stands by the fact that the felons were ineligible to vote and that, in registering, they falsely checked boxes affirming they are eligible to vote.

During a news conference in which DeSantis was joined by Attorney General Ashley Moody — a Republican who, as a member of the Florida Cabinet, also serves on the State Clemency Board — the Governor doubled down on the fault of the felons.

“There’s never been any law or constitutional amendment enacted in Florida that provides them with an automatic right to vote. They are ineligible to vote in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “They can apply through the clemency process — not going to get probably a very good hearing for me and Ashley when you’re talking about those serious crimes, but they do have a right to do that.”

Floridians with felony convictions can apply to have their rights restored. The Clemency Board can vote to restore a felon’s rights with support from two Cabinet members, but first the felon must win the Governor’s support.

Also at issue is that one of the statutes the 20 felons were arrested under prohibits people from “willfully” falsely affirming their eligibility. The second prohibits them from “willfully” voting if they know they are not qualified to vote.

Some of those arrested say they didn’t know they were ineligible to vote and had no intention of breaking the law.

The confusion rests with the passage of Amendment 4, which allows felons to vote when they complete their sentence, including after they pay restitution. However, the amendment excludes felons convicted of murder and sexual offenses until the State Clemency Board restores the individual’s right to vote.

“Under no possible construction of that amendment could somebody who is a convicted rapist or a convicted murderer be eligible to vote in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

The 20 suspects face third-degree felonies associated with voting violations. The charges carry a possible $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

During a news conference on Tuesday, DeSantis put the onus of confirming a voter’s eligibility on local Elections Supervisors.

“They’re the ones that are registering people. You go in your county and you register locally. You’re not registering in Tallahassee at the state government, and so it’s really their responsibility to ensure that those voting rolls are accurate,” he said.

The Governor’s communications director, Taryn Fenske, also told POLITICO Supervisors should be held accountable if they are telling murderers they can vote.

However, the Department of State rule requires the state to provide the county offices with lists of people who potentially are ineligible because their rights have not been restored.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) and Executive Director Desmond Meade, who overcame addiction and convictions to become a civil rights activist, spearheaded the successful passage of Amendment 4 in 2018. In a statement this month, the FRRC said it agrees the amendment is clear on who is eligible and ineligible to vote.

“Unfortunately, that is not how the process currently works for people impacted by Amendment 4,” the organization said.

“That’s why we hope the state starts to invest as much energy, if not more, on the front end of the election process as the back end of the process. That means fixing the system to prevent situations like this and spending tax dollars to investigate and prosecute Florida citizens. It is less costly and easier to prevent these situations from happening in the first place.”

FRRC has set up legal defense and bail funds for the 20 individuals arrested this month.

FRRC Deputy Director Neil Volz told Florida Politics the current situation stems from a data-sharing problem between the state and supervisors. People who are 13 years old don’t wrongfully receive driver’s licenses, for example.

“If the government can’t tell someone on the front end that they’re ineligible to vote, then how can you arrest them on the back end?” Volz said.

As for the Governor’s comment that people convicted of murder and sexual offenses likely won’t have a good hearing, Volz tried to stay above the fray.

“Part of the movement behind Amendment 4 was that who (can) and who cannot vote shouldn’t be in the hands of elected officials, Republican or Democrat,” Volz said. “Right now it’s a process in which we see elected officials determining who can and can’t vote.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


21 comments

  • Tjb

    August 31, 2022 at 3:21 pm

    Does the state have a database of felons for the local election boards to access? Should the governor be responsible for the creating and maintaining of this database?

    • Charlie Crist

      August 31, 2022 at 3:31 pm

      They really don’t want felons voting…or they want to cherry pick from among them who votes and who doesn’t. Doesn’t matter what the voters have decided. They are right wing authoritarian people. There has to be someone without rights or they aren’t happy. That’s the way they are. Buncha nuts..

      • Frank Lee

        September 5, 2022 at 5:39 am

        The Republican legislature, the Republican FL Supreme Court, and the fascist governor, think that released felons would vote blue. So, they twist A-4 into a weapon.

    • Wendy

      September 1, 2022 at 10:40 am

      From everything I’ve read about this, only the state has access to that info, not the local governments, so the local election boards are dependent on getting that info from the state. And they are not, setting up this whole entrapment scheme.

    • Ian

      September 1, 2022 at 3:29 pm

      Tjb, the answer to both questions is no.

      • Tjb

        September 1, 2022 at 4:43 pm

        I believe the state should have the responsibility for the database. Don’t they maintain such databases as the DOC and FDLE. Do they allow easy access to these type of databases for SOR?

        • Ian

          September 1, 2022 at 5:15 pm

          Tjb, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals disagrees with you.

          In its ruling which found Florida’s law constitutional for implementing Amendment 4, the court found: “A fundamental confusion in this litigation has been the notion that the Due Process Clause somehow makes Florida responsible not only for giving felons notice of the standards that determine their eligibility to vote but also for locating and providing felons with the facts necessary to determine whether they have completed their financial terms of sentence. The Due Process Clause imposes no such obligation. States are constitutionally entitled to set legitimate voter qualifications through laws of general application and to require voters to comply with those laws through their own efforts.”

          • tjb

            September 1, 2022 at 5:52 pm

            So if the state is providing this information to the felons (assuming they get it), is the state also providing this information to the SOR in a timely fashion so they can do their due diligence?

          • Ian

            September 1, 2022 at 6:29 pm

            Tjb, not sure where you’re coming from with that question. The judge provides the terms of a felon’s sentence to the felon at the sentencing hearing. It becomes court record at that point. Is that what you mean?

            When you write “SOR,” are you referring to supervisors of elections?

            The sad truth is that the state or anyone else would be tilting at windmills to try to compile and maintain a database to determine whether a felon is eligible or ineligible to vote.

        • marylou

          September 1, 2022 at 7:25 pm

          “Florida law tasks the state government with flagging felony convictions that bar a resident from registering to vote. It wasn’t local officials who dropped the ball. It was the DeSantis administration.

          The head of the election police, a DeSantis appointee, explicitly told local election supervisors that they were not at fault, contradicting the governor’s claims.) Because the defendants trusted election officials, they now face up to five years in prison for voter fraud.

          Here’s how the process works. When the county supervisor of elections receives a registration application, they forward it to the state. The Division of Elections, part of the Department of State, then determines whether the applicant is “potentially ineligible based on a felony conviction without civil rights restored.” If the agency finds evidence of ineligibility, it informs the county supervisor, who then tells the applicant why his registration was denied. If the applicant confirms the allegation, he’s removed from the voter registration system. If the applicant denies the allegations, he can demand a hearing to prove that he is eligible.

          It’s easy to see why DeSantis is eager to direct culpability away from state governments. The governor appoints the head of both the Division of Elections and the Department of State. His own administration greenlighted the defendants’ voter registration applications, and now it has arrested them for voting. That doesn’t look like election security. It looks like entrapment.”
          —-Slate

          • Tjb

            September 2, 2022 at 5:44 pm

            To Ian,
            Regret the typo (SOE)
            Regarding the felon, I am confident that DeSantis’ Election Police have this information. They should be sharing this information with the SOE’s.
            My question is why aren’t they sharing this info? Is DeSantis setting up the SOEs for failure so he can remove election officials unfairly for personal gain?

  • Joe Corsin

    August 31, 2022 at 3:26 pm

    Alright…if you’ve finished your sentence you can vote. Just kidding!!! You’re going back to jail and being charged with another felony which definitely means you can’t vote! AWWW HAW HAW HAW!!!😂 God bless Florida and the USA! AWWW HAW HAW HAW!!!

    • Ian

      September 1, 2022 at 3:35 pm

      Joe, the only persons arrested were murderers and sex offenders who actually voted. Amendment 4 excluded those felons from the restoration of voting rights, regardless of whether they completed all terms of their sentences. That’s the way it was written.

    • Todd

      September 1, 2022 at 4:14 pm

      You know something is mentally off with a person when they have to write laughs such as “haw haw haw” after their comments.

  • PeterH

    August 31, 2022 at 3:32 pm

    So THIS IS THE TAKE AWAY FOR FLORIDA TAXPAYERS TO UNDERSTAND DeSantis’s voting fraud committee has receive $10,000,000. to find voter fraud perpetrators.

    DeSantis has identified 20 individuals WHOSE VOTES HAD NO IMPACT ON THE 2020 ELECTION OUTCOME.

    The Federal Government identified six residents of The Villiages who committed voter fraud….most were Republicans.

    Please do the math.

  • tom palmer

    August 31, 2022 at 3:58 pm

    Ronnie is like Donnie. Everything is someone else’s fault.

  • Todd

    September 1, 2022 at 4:12 pm

    No shocker that our lame Governor DeSantis didn’t hold any press conferences on the couple of guys in The Villages, a large republican stronghold here in Florida, who got caught illegally voting….

  • Ian

    September 1, 2022 at 5:28 pm

    PeterH, you’ll be glad to know those guys at the Villages pleaded guilty and are serving the terms that the court subjected them to.

    Anything else?

    • marylou

      September 1, 2022 at 7:40 pm

      Community service and civics class, OR
      fine and 3 days in jail, OR
      probation

      The Village People knew they were voting illegally. Let’s see what the court subjects the felons that they set-up to!

      • Ian

        September 1, 2022 at 8:17 pm

        marylou, my guess is that the charges are likely to be dropped or the results will be similar to what happened to the Village People.

        • marylou

          September 1, 2022 at 10:19 pm

          It appears that many of those arrested are fighting the charges. From what I’ve read there’s pretty widespread agreement that the arrests have already served their purpose of intimidating other people who are actually eligible to vote.

Comments are closed.


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