It should be illegal to put people in jail or prison for voting or registering to vote when they didn’t realize they were ineligible. In fact, our systems of voting shouldn’t allow people who are ineligible to register or vote. There should be safeguards upon safeguards to stop that from happening. The onus shouldn’t be on citizens, who may or may not know whether they can vote legally. If people can’t vote legally, they should be told so with clarity.
Also, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis should be illegal. At this point, the man is just a walking civil rights violation.
Right now the governor—who hates all things “woke”-related and who literally tried to dilute Black voting power by redistricting his state’s congressional map to be what he called “race-neutral”—is being dragged up and down social media now that videos are surfacing that show citizens being arrested for voting or registering to vote illegally when they apparently had no idea they couldn’t vote.
From Tampa Bay Times:
Body-worn camera footage recorded by local police captured the confusion and outrage of Hillsborough County residents who found themselves in handcuffs for casting a ballot following investigations by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new Office of Election Crimes and Security.
The Aug. 18 arrests — conducted hours before DeSantis called a news conference to tout his crackdown on alleged voter fraud — were carried out by state police officers accompanied by local law enforcement.
The never-before-seen footage, obtained by the Times/Herald through public records requests, offers a personal glimpse of the effects of DeSantis’ efforts to root out perceived voter fraud.
“They’re going to pay the price,” DeSantis said during the news conference announcing the arrests.
Of the 19 people arrested, 12 were registered as Democrats and at least 13 are Black, the Times/Herald found.
Let’s be real about a few things:
First, DeSantis’ little “election crimes” drop squad is likely just a result of him building off of the propaganda momentum started by Donald Trump and his continued lie about his losing his bid for reelection due to widespread voter fraud that DOES NOT EXIST.
Secondly, if you think it’s an accident that Black people represent the strong majority of those who were arrested—and if you think that wasn’t likely the point of DeSantis working so hard to arbitrarily keep felons from voting—you probably also believe Herschel Walkers’s cereal box-like police badge proves his so-called record of working with law enforcement.
Lastly, when it comes to DeSantis and DeSantis policies, it always seems like cruelty is the point.
Here’s arrested citizen Tony Patterson, who said he belied felons were allowed to vote in Florida.
Tampa police carrying out the first arrests of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new election security force were surprised and almost sympathetic. “I’ve never seen these charges before in my entire life,” one officer said. https://t.co/iSgwi0BOf6 pic.twitter.com/druNvCU7Ev
— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) October 18, 2022
“What is wrong with this state, man?” Patterson asked as he was being placed in handcuffs. “Voter fraud? Y’all said anybody with a felony could vote, man.”
Here’s 55-year-old Romona Oliver, who served 18 years in prison for second-degree murder, also expressing confusion about why she’s being arrested for voting in 2020.
Ron DeSantis’ new 'Office of Election Crimes and Security' in action. Ramona Oliver, 55, was leaving for work when she was handcuffed in her driveway at 6:52 a.m. Oliver and others face up to 5 years in prison after being accused by DeSantis of voter fraud. pic.twitter.com/ZGpG71Wavg
— Don Lewis (@DonLew87) October 18, 2022
“Voter fraud?” she said. “I voted, but I ain’t commit no fraud.”
Usually, people who knowingly commit crimes don’t immediately upon arrest admit that they did the act—unless they were absolutely unaware they did anything wrong.
Throwing people away like this for what are clearly political reasons should be illegal.
Body cam footage of people arrested by Desantis for voting after local elections offices registered them and told them they were eligible. pic.twitter.com/2LNBe3LIwW
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) October 18, 2022
And that’s why DeSantis’ arrests are being likened to Jim Crow and reconstruction-era white supremacy.
Jim Crow called. He wanted to pat Ron DeSantis on the back. https://t.co/0aGiRrurhv
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) October 19, 2022
Florida Republicans in the Villages who voted TWICE were only asked to attend a civics class
Black Floridians who did nothing wrong at all were arrested by Ron DeSantis and face jail time
The Ku Klux Klan is back and it’s been rebranded as MAGA
— Lindy Li (@lindyli) October 19, 2022
Ron DeSantis’ fascist “election security task force” is already arresting people of color for alleged “voter fraud” in an attempt to intimidate others from exercising their fundamental rights. @TheJusticeDept needs to step in. This is a terrifying and illegal abuse of power.
— Andrew Wortman (@AmoneyResists) October 18, 2022
Ever wonder how white supremacists stopped Black voting during Reconstruction? In this century, thanks to Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s “election security force,” it’s on video: https://t.co/TT8MrQ3m6B
— Heather Cox Richardson (TDPR) (@HC_Richardson) October 18, 2022
More from the Times:
They are accused of violating a state law that doesn’t allow people convicted of murder or felony sex offenses to automatically be able to vote after they complete their sentence. A 2018 state constitutional amendment that restored the right to vote to many felons excluded this group.
But, as the videos further support, the amendment and subsequent actions by state lawmakers caused mass confusion about who was eligible, and the state’s voter registration forms offer no clarity. They only require a potential voter to swear, under penalty of perjury, that they’re not a felon, or if they are, that their rights have been restored. The forms do not clarify that those with murder convictions don’t get automatic restoration of their rights.
In Oliver’s case, she even checked twice with the Department of State—”which reports to DeSantis and is responsible for cleaning the rolls of ineligible voters,” according to the Times—and she was given a voter ID card both times.
Again, the voting system shouldn’t allow this if folks are going to be penalized and have their freedom taken away simply because they didn’t know.
But let’s also just be real about the likelihood that DeSantis doesn’t care. Why would he care about the well-being or freedom of Black people who have served their time and just want to be able to vote on laws and policies that affect him when all he wants is to keep his state as Republican as possible?
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