Will Florida governor’s “voting fraud” cases blow up in his face?

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who wants to be president, set up a special squad of election cops to hunt down voting fraud.

They went after the low-hanging fruit first: Ex-convicts. In 2018, Florida voters voted overwhelmingly in favor of restoring ex-felons’ voting rights by passing a state constitutional amendment by a margin of 65%-35%. GOP legislators didn’t like that, so they passed a law requiring all court fines and restitution to be paid first, the constitutionality of which is still being litigated. By the way, most of those affected are African-Americans.

Meanwhile, Ron’s election cops recently busted 20 people for illegal voting, all of them people convicted of murder or sexual offenders, who aren’t eligible under the amendment. The problem is, “In order to get a conviction, prosecutors will have to prove the defendants knew they were ineligible when they registered and voted,” the Guardian says (in a story here).

All 20 defendants submitted voter registration applications that were approved by local election officials. Several told the Guardian they received voter registration cards in the mail, which they interpreted to mean they were eligible to vote. (Wouldn’t you?)

The next question is, who was responsible for verifying their eligibility? Answer: Florida election laws require the secretary of state’s office to review voter eligibility and flag ineligible voters, such as those with disqualifying felony convictions. And there’s no evidence any of them were told their crimes made them ineligible.

It gets worse. Douglas Oliver, 59, of Tampa, “called the local election office to confirm that he could cast a ballot. Oliver said he had disclosed that he had been convicted of a disqualifying sexual offense, but he said officials had told him he was eligible.” If I’m on the jury, and I believe that, I’ll acquit him.

Jerry Lee Foster, 72, of Orlando, said he “called up a sheriff’s deputy charged with monitoring him as a sex offender and asked if he was eligible to vote and was told that he was.” The sheriff says his deputies wouldn’t do this, but if I believe that, I’ll acquit him, too.

Some of the other cases are less clear-cut, but it appears confusion explains many of them, with the state at fault for much of the confusion; and the most prosecutors will be able to show in others is carelessness. If I’m on the jury, I’m not going to send someone to prison for 5 years for that.

This is probably all going to blow up into so much charging papers confetti. (Click on image to activate confetti cannon.) For DeSantis, it won’t matter, because this is just grandstanding anyway. To the legions of Republicans who refuse to believe our elections are fair and honest, these will represent 20 cases of “voting fraud” even if all 20 defendants are acquitted, because that’s how things work in low-information MAGA fantasyland.

If Governor Ron’s election cops were serious about finding actual voting crimes, and nailing people who intentionally vote twice, they would make sweeps of The Villages (see story here), where Florida’s known voting crooks live.

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