Senate advances statewide prosecutor takeover of election law cases

Jonathan Martin said the cases impact multiple jurisdictions, so the Attorney General's Office should manage them.

A bill that could shift many cases of election fraud to the statewide prosecutor’s office is moving forward in the Senate.

Sen. Jonathan Martin said the legislation (SB 4B) will put matters into the hands of a prosecutor not beholden to local political interests.

“Hopefully nobody commits election laws affecting elections,” the Fort Myers Republican said. “I just want it handled as equally and fairly as possible across the state of Florida.”

The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee approved the bill on a 14-6 party-line vote.

The measure addresses a number of election-related crimes including election fraud, candidate petition activities and voter registration fraud. Martin noted that many of those crimes involve elections that span multiple judicial circuits, which alone warrants a statewide prosecutor taking on the matters in terms of government efficiency.

Florida’s statewide prosecutor, appointed by the Attorney General, right now focuses on large-scale criminal activity, often involving cases that are complex and multijurisdictional. Martin suggested that a voter who casts a fraudulent ballot in a statewide race or a district that covers more than one circuit falls into the category.

The bill was one of several under consideration in an ongoing weeklong Special Session.

The timing upset Democrats, especially after an election police force created last year at the behest of Gov. Ron DeSantis faces criticism. The state arrested 20 people last year for illegally registering to vote, many claiming they believed they had their rights restored by a constitutional amendment passed in 2018. In 19 cases, individuals are continuing to fight charges.

Sen. Lori Berman, a Delray Beach Democrat, pressed Martin on whether the law would allow the statewide prosecutor to take over case management of the existing cases.

“That’s what this is about,” she said. “People voted because got a voter ID card, and we want to be fair to them

Martin said that’s ultimately going to be up to a judge. He also suggested that regardless of whether the state told individuals they could register to vote, those who did so when the state had not restored their voting rights still actively violated the law.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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