Will the governor’s claims of illegal voting hurt felon’s chances of rights restoration

Published: August 31, 2022 4:17 PM EDT
Updated: August 31, 2022 4:32 PM EDT

A Florida elections chief absolves counties responsible for felons accused of voting illegally. It comes after Governor Ron DeSantis said there were at least 20 felons who illegally voted in some counties in Florida.

Those 20 felons are facing third-degree felony charges.

The deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition said the governor’s comments do not help felons, but will the governor’s words stop felons from trying to get their voting rights restored? Only time will tell.

Governor DeSantis blames local election supervisors for mistakes he says may have allowed 20 convicted felons to vote illegally, but his election investigations chief, Peter Antonacci, already absolved local officials of any wrongdoing.

“The law is very clear on that the people of Florida passed an amendment that said felons would be able to get restored, but not sex abuse, sex assault, or homicide. So those are out, and you just don’t get it with that,” said DeSantis.

“He sees political advantage, particularly directed towards his base voters who believe that, if not in Florida, at least nationwide, there is some degree of voter fraud,” said Peter Bergerson, a political science professor at FGCU.

WINK News asked Bergerson if this could be a problem with how the law is written and how the law is interpreted. “Oh, absolutely, sure. All pieces of legislation leave room for discretion and leave room for interpretation,” Bergerson said.

Meaning, in reality, there will never be a perfect election.

“We definitely believe that improving the system on the front end can reduce the confusion, reduce the fear, and allow all of us to have a more secure election system,” said Neil Volz, deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

Volz said the governor’s claims impacted the lives of families across the state. “People who went out, thought they could vote, voted, were excited about it. And now, years later, they’re looking at arrests and a lot of fear and concern amongst them and their families.”

The next step will be when the people arrested must show up to court. The prosecution will have to prove intent to commit voter fraud.