On Friday, charges were dropped against one of the twenty persons detained for allegedly voting illegally as part of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ effort to curb election fraud.
The state prosecutor who is handling all 20 cases did not have jurisdiction over the case against Robert Lee Wood, therefore a judge in Miami, Florida, dismissed the charges.
Although local prosecutors retain the option of refiling the charges, the judgment might set a precedent for similar rulings in some or all of the other cases. The state will be appealing the decision, according to the governor’s office.
The Republican governor, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 8 and is widely speculated to be considering a presidential bid in 2024, celebrated the arrests in August as the “first salvo” from his newly established Office of Election Crimes and Security.
As a result of then-President Trump’s unfounded accusations that the 2020 election was stolen, Republicans around the country pushed to establish the agency, which includes state law enforcement agents.
Human rights organizations have voiced concern that the position could discourage people from voting and erode trust in the electoral process. Studies have demonstrated that instances of voter fraud are extremely infrequent in the United States. 11 million votes were cast in Florida’s 2020 election.Two days prior to Friday’s ruling, the Tampa Bay Times had revealed body camera footage from the arrests showing multiple defendants appearing confused by the charges against them.
All twenty are ex-convicts who served time for serious offenses including murder or sex crimes. Many formerly incarcerated individuals had their voting rights restored by a constitutional amendment in 2018, however those convicted of certain serious crimes were specifically disenfranchised.
Several accused individuals may be heard on the recordings saying that election authorities let them vote and that they don’t know why they are being arrested. Voter fraud is an intentional crime in California.
Prosecutors in Wood’s case contended that the two-location criterion was met because his ballot, cast in Miami, was ultimately sent to Tallahassee to be tallied.
Wood’s defense attorney argued that his client had nothing to do with the relocation of ballots, and Judge Milton Hirsch agreed.
The judge noted in his order, “Here, all the criminal wrongdoing, if there was any, was perpetrated by one guy in one county.”
Larry Davis, Wood’s attorney, has urged prosecutors to drop the charges. Davis claims that after being assured that he could vote, Wood registered, was issued a voter card, and cast a ballot with no pushback.
“There’s no way he would have done so without being assured it was OK,” Davis claimed during a phone interview. My client did not set out to violate the law in any way.
The state will continue to enforce the law and guarantee that murderers and rapists who are not entitled to vote do not unlawfully do so, Bryan Griffin, a DeSantis spokesperson, said in a statement.