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Florida legislators to tweak laws to help DeSantis’ voter fraud cases

Two of the governor’s voter fraud cases were tossed out on technicalities.
Gov. Ron DeSantis held a splashy news conference in August to announce the arrests of about 20 people who allegedly voted while ineligible in 2020.
Gov. Ron DeSantis held a splashy news conference in August to announce the arrests of about 20 people who allegedly voted while ineligible in 2020. [ AMY BETH BENNETT | South Florida Sun Sentinel ]
Published Feb. 3|Updated Feb. 23

TALLAHASSEE — After seeing two of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ voter fraud cases tossed out on technicalities, Florida lawmakers will change state law during a special legislative session this week.

Legislators will clarify that the office of statewide prosecution can, indeed, bring voting-related charges, after two different judges in Miami ruled otherwise.

The proposal, Senate Bill 4-B, is one of a handful of “glitch” bills lawmakers are considering this week. Lawmakers are also expected to pass legislation to reverse their decision to dissolve Walt Disney World’s special taxing district and to expand DeSantis’ program that flew migrants to Martha’s Vineyard last year.

Related: State lawmakers consider giving DeSantis OK to transport migrants from anywhere in U.S.

After DeSantis held a splashy news conference in August to announce the arrests of about 20 people who allegedly voted while ineligible in 2020, defense attorneys immediately challenged the individuals who were prosecuting the cases. (All those arrested had prior convictions for murder or felony sex offenses, making them ineligible to vote, but all were cleared by the state and issued voter ID cards.)

Instead of asking local state attorneys to pursue the cases, DeSantis’ administration chose the office of statewide prosecution, which reports to Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican.

Under Florida law, statewide prosecutors are restricted to prosecuting crimes in multiple jurisdictions, such as a drug trafficker who sells drugs in multiple counties.

Statewide prosecutors argued that because a voter’s ballot is cast in a county, and is then sent to the secretary of state in Tallahassee, every voting case is under their jurisdiction.

Related: Miami judge rejects another DeSantis voter fraud case

Defense attorneys — and two judges — disagreed. In two separate cases, judges ruled that because the two defendants, Ronald Lee Miller and Robert Lee Wood, didn’t set foot in Tallahassee, the fact that the ballot was sent to Tallahassee to be certified was merely technical, and not a crime.

Statewide prosecutors have appealed the decisions.

The legislation should resolve the issue by making it clear that statewide prosecutors can pursue voting-related crimes, said the Senate bill sponsor, Sen. Jonathan Martin, R-Fort Myers.

Related: Meet the man in charge of DeSantis' voter fraud cases

“Hopefully this lets the judges and the courts know what the legislative intent is,” Martin said.