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ACLU Media Office, 786-363-2737,

October 19, 2022

TAMPA - On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Times released a news story including body camera footage recorded by local police arresting Hillsborough County residents who believed they were eligible to vote in Florida’s elections. The arrests were made following investigations led by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Office of Election Crimes and Security. Approximately 19 people were arrested, most of whom applied to register to vote, had their applications approved by the Florida Division of Elections, and received voter registration cards in 2020. 

The ACLU of Florida responded with the following statement: 

“The body camera footage reveals the real, human impact of these anti-voter schemes and the confusion it has created. It is devastating for our communities. The arrests are a grotesque abuse of power by Gov. DeSantis. Although the Governor and Legislature claimed that they passed SB7066 in 2019 to ‘clarify’ Voting Restoration Amendment 4, in reality, the law created an unworkable pay-to-vote system that is intentionally difficult and complex to navigate. 

“The State of Florida has failed its citizens. People returning to our communities are forced to navigate a maze of bureaucracy in order to determine whether they are eligible to vote. Compounding the failure is the fact that Florida has no central database of convictions and outstanding legal financial obligations to help returning citizens navigate the confusing rules the state created to undermine the promise of Amendment 4. 

“After the State of Florida made it virtually impossible for returning citizens to determine whether they are eligible to register to vote, earlier this year, Gov. DeSantis pushed the Legislature to create an elections police force. The timing of these arrests and the respective announcement in August, less than a week from the Primary, made clear then that the purpose of this office is to investigate and intimidate Florida voters. Florida is not just punishing its citizens for their poverty, but criminally charging individuals who have attempted to wade through the morass to determine what they owe to vote under SB7066. In doing so, the State presented an impossible choice to returning citizens: stay disenfranchised, or risk criminal prosecution. And we know that those who will be most impacted by these arrests are low-income Floridians and Black and brown communities. 

“When people register and/or vote without realizing they're ineligible, the proper course should be to cancel their registration, not prosecute them. It is the state’s responsibility to determine the eligibility of Floridians registering to vote, and the state should devote resources to determining a voter’s eligibility, not to upend lives in order to prosecute mistakes.

“Florida politicians must honor the will of Florida voters and create a streamlined process for full restoration of voting eligibility for those with past felony convictions who have completed their sentences.”