‘What’s wrong with this state?’ Video shows stunned Floridans arrested for voting



When police went to arrest Tony Patterson outside his Tampa home in August, he couldn’t believe why.

“What’s wrong with this state, man?” Patterson protested as she was taken to a handcuffed police car. “A voter fraud? You said anyone with a crime could vote, man.”

Body-worn footage recorded by local police reflected the confusion and anger of Hillsborough County residents who found themselves handcuffed for voting following investigations by Governor Ron DeSantis’s new Office of Electoral Crimes and Security.

The August 18 arrests were made by state police officers, accompanied by local law enforcement, hours before DeSantis held a press conference to announce his crackdown on the election fraud allegations.

Never-before-seen footage obtained by Herald/Times through public registration requests offers a personal look at the effects of DeSantis’ efforts to root out perceived voter fraud.

“They’re going to pay for it,” DeSantis said at the press conference announcing the arrests.

The Herald/Times found that of the 19 arrested, 12 were Democrats and at least 13 were Black.

When 55-year-old Romona Oliver was about to leave for work, police arrived at her home at 6:52 am and told her that she had an arrest warrant.

“Oh my God,” he said.

An officer said he was arrested for fraud, a third-degree felony, for voting illegally in 2020.

“A voter fraud?” said. “I voted, but I didn’t cheat.”

READ MORE: DeSantis announces arrest in Florida for vote fraud

Oliver and 19 others face up to five years in prison after being accused by DeSantis and state police of illegally registering and voting.

They are accused of violating a state law that does not allow people convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses to automatically vote after they have served their sentences. The 2018 state constitutional amendment, which restored the right to vote to many criminals, excluded this group.

But as the videos further support, the change and subsequent actions by state legislators have caused great confusion about who is eligible, and the state’s voter registration forms do not offer clarity. They just want a potential voter to swear that they are not guilty or not guilty, that their rights are reinstated. The forms do not explain that those with a murder conviction are not automatically reinstated.

Oliver, who served 18 years in prison for second-degree murder, signed up to vote with the Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department on February 14, 2020. Six months later he updated his address and filled out another registration form.

After brief eligibility checks by the State Department, which reports to DeSantis and is responsible for clearing the list of ineligible voters, he was given a voter ID card on both occasions.

READ MORE: ‘Money talks’: DeSantis chases petty voter crimes, stays quiet on FPL and The Matrix

Oliver was not removed from the rolls until March 30 this year, more than two years later.

‘You have a defense’

Records by Tampa police and Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies reveal officers who were patient, understanding—almost apologetic.

Nathan Hart, 49, in handcuffs, found an understanding ear when he explained how he had illegally registered and voted, according to the sheriff’s office record.

Standing in handcuffs, he told officers that he had signed up to vote at the encouragement of someone “in place”. Records show it was in March 2020.

“I’m a convicted criminal, I’m pretty sure I can’t,” Hart, a registered sex offender, told officers. “Well, are you still on probation?”

Hart remembered that Hart’s probation had ended a month ago. The person told him to sign up anyway.

“Well, you can just fill out this form and if they let you vote, you can,” Hart said. “’If they don’t, you can’t.’”

“Then you have a defense,” replied one of the officers. “You know what I’m saying? It feels like a void to me.”

“Well, we can hope,” Hart said.

In one respect, the officer was right: State law says that a voter must “deliberately” commit the crime—a barrier that forces some prosecutors not to charge unsuitable voters.

In Lake County this year, for example, prosecutors declined to press charges against six convicted sex offenders who voted in 2020.

READ MORE: Lawsuits against imprisoned voters on dubious legal ground. Florida gave them voter IDs

“In all the cases where sex offenders vote, each appears to have been encouraged to vote by various mailings and misinformation,” said prosecutor Jonathan Olson. “Each of them were given voter registration cards that would make them believe they could legally vote in the election. Evidence does not show intentional actions on some of these individuals.”

‘Political Strategy’

DeSantis’ voter fraud arrests are handled by the Statewide Attorney’s Office, which is limited by law to prosecuting crimes involving two or more jurisdictions, including voting. According to the website, these crimes are often “complex, often large-scale, organized crime activities.” The statewide attorney is Nicholas Cox, who was reappointed by Attorney General Ashley Moody in 2019.

Oliver’s attorney, Tampa attorney Mark Rankin, said DeSantis’ election security force specifically selected these 20 people because he thought the public would not sympathize with people convicted of murder or sexual crimes. At a press conference announcing the arrests, DeSantis drew attention to his criminal records.

“This is not an accident,” Rankin said. “This is a political strategy.”

READ MORE: ‘How did I cheat?’ Former criminal voters confused by arrests, DeSantis announcement

Public defenders representing Hart and Patterson declined to comment.

Patterson, a registered sex offender, according to the records, wondered why he was left alone when officers arrived at his home.

“This happened years ago,” he told the officers. “Why now? Why me?”

Even the Tampa police officer who imprisoned Patterson seemed taken aback by the charges against him. On the way, the officer received a phone call and appeared to briefly discuss Patterson’s case.

“I have never seen these accusations before in my life,” the officer said.

Cuffed in the backseat, Patterson, 40, boiled. She said her brother encouraged her to register to vote.

“I always listen to others. Vote for it. Vote – come on man,” Patterson grumbled. “I thought criminals could vote. So I signed a petition form, that’s how I remember it.

“Why did you let me vote if I can’t vote?”

“I’m not sure, man,” replied the officer. “I do not know.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like