In 2018 more than 64% of Florida voters chose to amend the state constitution, providing for the automatic restoration of voting rights to felons. The amendment excluded violent crimes and sex crimes, it also left other details up to the legislature, such as the repayment of fines and fees.
Now almost four years later, 20 Florida felons are facing new felony charges for voting in the 2020 election, with almost all saying they thought they had their rights restored.
“The state is responsible for verifying the information on these individuals and then notifying us,” says Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles citing Florida Statute 98.075 which says, “the department shall protect the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring the maintenance of accurate and current voter registration records.”
“The state was supposed to put something in place,” says Former State Legislator Dwight Bullard.
In February, 9 Investigates showcased a half dozen felons who tried to vote in Lake County in 2020, even though their rights had not been restored. The cases were reviewed by the 5th Judicial Circuit, with attorneys declining to bring charges writing, “In all of the instances where sex offenders voted, each appear to have been encouraged to vote by various mailings and misinformation. Each were given voter registration cards which would lead one to believe they could legally vote in the election. The evidence fails to show willful actions on a part of these individuals. Therefore, the State is unable to file charges.”
So why were Lake County felons not charged, but Florida’s new election police has brought charges against 20-other felons, nobody seems to know. When asked for a response to that question, Governor Ron DeSantis’s office directed us to the Secretary of State’s office (which reports to the Governor). The Secretary of State’s office said it had received our question but has yet to provide a statement.
Meanwhile, the three Orange County felons arrested for voting in 2020 have pled not guilty.