Newly released footage from police body-worn cameras shows the confusion of Hillsborough County, Florida, residents as they were arrested on August 18 for voter fraud as part of Governor Ron DeSantis’s Office of Election Crimes and Security investigations.
The arrests were carried out just hours before a DeSantis press conference touting his authoritative crackdown on perceived voter fraud. Of the 19 people arrested, 12 were registered as Democrats and at least 13 are Black.
“They’re going to pay the price,” DeSantis said during the news conference announcing the arrests. The price may be as high as five years in prison.
The state says they violated a 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.
One man arrested said he was encouraged to register to vote “at the driver’s license place.”
“I said, ‘I’m a convicted felon, I’m pretty sure I can’t,’” Nathan Hart, a registered sex offender, told officers. “He goes, ‘Well, are you still on probation?’” The “driver’s license place guy” encouraged him to fill out the form, explaining that if the state allowed him to vote, he could. If they didn’t, he could not.
The recordings by Tampa police and Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies reveal officers who were patient, understanding — almost apologetic.
State law says that a voter has to “willfully” commit the crime, leading prosecutors to choose not to arrest several ineligible voters.