They are among 20 people arrested Aug. 18 in Florida over alleged voter fraud in the 2020 election, new police body-cam footage released to the Tampa Bay Times shows. At a news conference later that day, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) praised the Florida Office of Election Crimes and Security, the elections police force he created because of baseless claims of mass election fraud, for arresting those he claimed had illegally registered or marked their ballots. All of them, he vowed, would “pay the price.”
As The Washington Post previously reported, those arrested — most of whom are Black — are all accused of violating a state law prohibiting those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses from voting after completing their sentences. The arrests, The Post reported, raised questions about whether DeSantis and his election police unit were weaponizing their new powers to gain political advantage.
In the videos obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, those arrested appear puzzled when local and state police showed up at their houses to fulfill the warrants. Authorities, too, at times showed confusion when answering the questions of those taken into custody, footage shows.
Florida let them vote. Then DeSantis’s election police arrested them.
A spokesperson with the governor’s office did not immediately respond to a message from The Post seeking comment following the release of the videos.
All of them were charged with voter fraud, a third-degree felony in the state, and face up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. Several of those charged told The Post earlier this year that election officials and voter registration groups led them to believe that they were eligible to vote after the state’s 2018 amendment to restore felons’ voting rights. Some of their attorneys said Florida seemed to target their clients for honestly misunderstanding the law.
In one of the videos obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, a frustrated man placed in handcuffs outside his home complained about those tasked with determining who can vote in the state.
“What is wrong with this state, man?” the man said. “Voter fraud? Y’all said anybody with a felony could vote, man.”
Tim Craig and Lori Rozsa contributed to this report.