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DeSantis’ election security team probed FL voters for fraud in heavily Democratic counties

By Issac Morgan, Florida Phoenix | August 22, 2022

Following Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new election security office charging 20 Florida residents with felonies connected to alleged voter fraud, state data show those individuals are in Florida’s largest voting strongholds, with about 40 to 48 percent Democrats in five urban counties.

So far, the state’s investigation has resulted in arrests in those populated counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange and Hillsborough counties. In all five of those counties, Democrats have much higher voter registration compared to Republicans, according to data from the state division of elections. Florida voters go to the polls Tuesday for primary elections.

For instance, state data show that Broward has 597,190 registered Democrats, compared to 262,390 Republicans. Overall, Democrats make up 48 percent of voters in Broward. DeSantis chose Broward last week when he held a press conference on election fraud in Fort Lauderdale.

Miami-Dade has 576,319 registered Democrats and 429,422, with about 38 percent Democrats. In Orange County in central Florida, about 42 percent of voters are Democrats; In Hillsborough, about 37 percent and Palm Beach, 40 percent.

Overall, 17 individuals who allegedly voted illegally were arrested last week but the state plans to arrest more people, according to an email Monday from Dana Kelly, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“We obtained arrest warrants for 20 individuals,” Kelly said. “Three additional individuals from this operation have outstanding arrest warrants. They have not yet been arrested.”

Flanked by law enforcement officers, DeSantis said during the Broward press conference last week that an investigation was conducted by the Florida Office of Election Crimes and Security and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). “They are disqualified from voting because they’ve been convicted of either murder or sexual assault,” DeSantis said at the time.

“This is the first step, there will be more that happens over the weeks and months,” DeSantis said.

At issue is whether the state is targeting fraudulent activity in the elections process in heavily Democratic counties. That said, charges have been filed against Republicans, for example, in the state for putting a “ghost candidate” on a ballot “to siphon off votes from a Democratic candidate in a state Senate race in Central Florida,” according to an Associated Press report.

However, Bryan Griffin, press secretary for the DeSantis administration, told the Phoenix in an email Monday that “to my understanding there was no decision to focus on any county in particular – the Department of State reports irregularities statewide to FDLE and they follow up in investigation.”

Meanwhile, FDLE released information regarding the 17 individuals charged by the state, including names, ages and counties. According to a press release from FDLE, agents had arrested those individuals for illegally voting in the 2020 election, and they were “convicted murderers or were convicted for committing felony sexual offenses.”

For example, the state listed Robert Lee Wood, 56, who allegedly voted in Miami-Dade County and “was booked into Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.” And in Broward, 71-year-old Nathaniel Singleton of Ft. Lauderdale “was booked into Broward County Jail,” according to the FDLE.

A national voting rights and election reform group – Fair Elections Center – denounced DeSantis’ election security office that made the arrests.

Michelle Kanter Cohen, the organization’s policy director and senior counsel, said in a written statement Monday: “This effort is a waste of time, money, and state resources and it intimidates voters who seek to follow the law. Elected officials in Florida should take this as yet another sign that they should focus on making voting more accessible for Floridians, instead of restricting access under false premises.”

She added: “The arrest of these voters is a sensationalist effort to bolster false claims about Florida’s elections which, only two years ago, they lauded as a model for the country.”

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