ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Two months ago, David Ayala, standing next to his wife and District 9 State Attorney Aramis Ayala, was in tears after he registered to vote at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office after Amendment 4 was passed.
The amendment, passed by voters in 2018, allows for felons not convicted of murder or sex offenses to vote.
"I feel free, like a full citizen," he said that day.
However, state records obtained through the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Office on Friday show Ayala did vote in the 2012 and 2014 elections, even though he was a convicted felon.
Those records also show on David Ayala's voter registration forms in 2012, 2014 and 2016, he checked the box "I affirm I am not a convicted felon, or if I am, my right to vote has been restored."
According to the state attorney's campaign website, which has since been removed, Aramis Ayala said her husband was arrested in New York and Pennsylvania and served seven years in prison for drug conspiracy and counterfeiting checks.
Following the release of the records Friday, Ayala released a statement saying he simply did not understand Florida law.
"In 2012, I mistakenly registered to vote and voted in 2012 and 2014. It was my understanding that because I would have been able to register and vote in New York, where I was convicted, that I would be able to register and vote here in Florida. It was only after joining the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition in 2016 that I learned I was not eligible to vote here in Florida. I never voted again," David Ayala wrote in a statement sent to News 6. "I simply did not know Florida law and made a mistake. My personal experience helped me realize how important it is for new Florida voters to be educated on their civil rights in light of the passage of Amendment 4."
David Ayala worked to get Amendment 4 passed as a community organizer through Latino Justice, where he said he realized what the laws for convicted felons were.
Latino Justice's president released a statement saying the members of the organization stand by Ayala.
"Unfortunately, David is not alone in his experience," part of the statement read. "In the multiple states where we have engaged in litigation and advocacy on this matter, we run across numerous examples of confusing election law policies and, at times, misinformation. After completing their sentences, many people who are eligible to vote assume erroneously that they cannot register."
Late Thursday, a spokesperson with the State Attorney's Office also released a statement on behalf of Aramis Ayala in her husband's defense.
“As soon as my husband learned that he was not eligible to vote in Florida -- like he would have been in his former home state of New York -- he refrained from registering and voting in any election until this most recent one after the law was changed," Aramis Ayala said in the statement.
On Friday, a spokesperson with the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Office said it is too soon for them to comment on what happened with David Ayala's voter registration and how that was missed but that they are looking into it.