State attorney punts alleged voter fraud cases to DeSantis' new election police

State investigators will now decide whether to charge nine people who are convicted sex offenders and were determined by the Alachua County supervisor of elections to have voted illegally in the 2020 general election.

Brian Kramer, state attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, said the Florida Department of State and statewide prosecutor Nick Cox have asked that he withhold a decision of whether to prosecute nine cases that were forwarded to him by the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office in July.

The state department and statewide prosecutor "are going to review (the nine cases), and may take them from us,” Kramer said in an email to Mark Glaeser, a Gainesville database researcher who prompted voter fraud investigations throughout the state. “After they do so, if they don’t wish to proceed on them, we will make a filing decision.”

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Brian Kramer, the states attorney for the 8th judicial circuit, talks about a new Voter Rights Restoration Verification Program created by his office during a press conference at the states attorneys office in Gainesville FL May 17, 2022. The program hopes to provide individuals who have a felony and have tried to get their voting rights restored, a clearer picture of their voting rights.  [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]
Brian Kramer, the states attorney for the 8th judicial circuit, talks about a new Voter Rights Restoration Verification Program created by his office during a press conference at the states attorneys office in Gainesville FL May 17, 2022. The program hopes to provide individuals who have a felony and have tried to get their voting rights restored, a clearer picture of their voting rights. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Kramer added that if the state declines to prosecute the cases, it will have no bearing on whether he decides to proceed with prosecutions.

The referral stems from a July letter to Kramer from Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton, who said that nine people who are convicted sexual offenders voted illegally in the 2020 general election.

Barton’s letter was the latest in a string of events that have led to multiple people being charged and convicted for election-related crimes following a voter registration drive held at the Alachua County Jail in 2020.

Amendment 4 and legal challenges

Barton wrote that documentation clearly shows that nine voters "were not eligible to cast a ballot in the 2020 General Election under Florida Statute 98.0751 and should not have been registered to vote under the laws of the state of Florida and Amendment 4 due to their convictions of felony sexual offenses."

The passage of Amendment 4, which was approved in 2018 by nearly two-thirds of Florida voters, was supposed to restore voting rights to people with felony convictions who had completed their sentences, except those convicted of murder or sexual offenses. State lawmakers subsequently made changes requiring other former felons to pay all fines, fees and other sentencing requirements before regaining their right to vote.

In April, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation creating an election police force. The Office of Election Crimes and Security is a division of Florida’s Department of State. The division is tasked with reviewing fraud allegations and conducting preliminary investigations.

Kramer said that the division has priority in voter fraud cases

“I don’t have a firm timeline from them on when they will get back to me,” Kramer wrote in the email. “I think that the delay is because they need to hire a large number of investigators and support staff, and that can take some time.”

In addition to the nine cases in question, Kramer’s office charged 10 Alachua County inmates in April with a number of election crimes, four of whom have since accepted plea deals resulting in additional felony convictions. One inmate received an additional 10 months in prison, while three will have their sentences run concurrently.

Stacy Scott, public defender for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, said in July that she "was extremely disappointed that the state attorney chose to prosecute these cases, particularly considering the fact that there is no mechanism for an individual with a prior felony conviction to determine if they are eligible to vote." Scott's office represents the majority of the inmates charged.

Unlike Kramer, some prosecutors across the state have dismissed the claims, finding that the defendants didn’t have the criminal intent necessary to prosecute.

Javon L. Harris is a local government and social justice reporter for The Gainesville Sun. He can be reached by phone at (352) 338-3103, by email at jlharris@gannett.com or on Twitter @JavonLHarris_JD.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Florida election police to review alleged Alachua County voter fraud