Just in time for the midterm elections, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is giving the country a glimpse into the appalling future some in the GOP want for America.
A series of police bodycam videos reveals DeSantis is having many Black Floridians arrested and jailed for charges of "voter fraud" in what many see as a clear case of voter suppression.
The arrests are based on DeSantis' interpretation of a confusing and opaque law passed in 2018 that restored voting rights to convicted felons in the state. Before the change, anyone who had been convicted of a felony was never able to vote again in their life after serving their time as set forth by the legal judgment against them.
DeSantis is having many Black felons charged for felony voter fraud for voting in 2020, in the name of protecting "election integrity."
DeSantis' move seems to have mystified even some law enforcement officers sent to arrest the voters, some of whom as ssen in the video below, seemed troubled and struggled to even explain what was happening to the arrestees.
Many of the arrests were performed on August 18 just hours before DeSantis announced his new crackdown on voter fraud via the Office of Election Crimes and Security he created.
Of the 19 people arrested, the majority were registered Democrats and over two-thirds were Black.
They have been accused of violating a state law that excludes felons convicted of murder or sex crimes from voting. A 2018 law that restored felons' voting rights excluded these two groups.
But the huge changes and lack of clarity on the rules caused mass confusion at the time, and the state's voter registration forms do not clarify who is and is not eligible.
In some cases, the felons' registrations were approved by DeSantis' own Department of State, which handles voter registration and reports directly to DeSantis.
One such voter, Romona Oliver, who served 18 years in prison for second-degree murder, had her registrations approved and was granted voter ID cards twice in 2020 alone by DeSantis' Department of State.
She was arrested in her driveway around 7am on August 18 as she was leaving her house for work.
Oliver's lawyer Mark Rankin told the Miami Herald DeSantis' aims toward ginning up right-wing suspicions of fraud and terrorizing certain demographics out of voting are obvious.
He believes the 19 were chosen specifically because DeSantis assumed the public will not have sympathy for murder and sex crime convictions.
He told the Herald:
“That’s not an accident. That’s a political strategy.”
But it's one that seems to already be unraveling.
Earlier today, the first of potentially many of the people arrested in August had his charges dropped because the state's prosecutor did not have jurisdiction to bring them in the first place.
Cases like Oliver's could potentially collapse as well, as the Florida law states the voter fraud must have been committed "willfully."
Given Oliver and many of the accused were issued voter IDs from the state's own authorities, their willfulness is not likely to be provable in court. Florida prosecutors have already declined to charge several other felons who voted in 2020 on this basis.
On Twitter, many people—including even some Republicans—found DeSantis' move appalling and absurd.
While the shaky ground on which the arrests have occurred is reason for hope, the true damage--intimidating non-white voters, especially those with criminal records, from exercising their franchise--has already been done.
And with DeSantis being lauded as a conservative hero for his brashly fascistic and bigoted approaches to nearly every legislative issue, we should all be wary of copycat schemes in other states.