Insider extra: Hear FDLE interviews with 3 Orange County residents accused of voter fraud

All 3 told officers they thought their rights had been restored, audio released after public records request shows

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – News 6 is hearing for the first time the interviews three Orange County residents had with agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement before being arrested and accused of voter fraud.

In August 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ newly formed election police arrested 20 people across the state in connection with illegally voting in the 2020 election.

Michelle Stribling, Peter Washington and Jerry Foster have all filed motions to have their cases dismissed. A circuit judge recently dismissed Washington’s case, but the state is appealing.

In these early interviews, conducted at each of their homes, there is a common thread—they all thought their voting rights had been reinstated.

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Jerry Foster, 72, told an FDLE agent he was aware that Amendment 4 restored the voting rights for some with felony convictions.

“I heard it on the news. It said the governor blessed us,” Foster said during the recorded interview.

The agent pressed for more.

“But you knew that sex offenders and convicted murderers could not do it (vote) but you signed it anyway?” the agent asked.

“No, I didn’t know that. I thought it was for everyone,” Foster said.

In 2010, Foster was sentenced to one year and one month in prison after being convicted of a felony sex crime, which means his rights, like someone convicted of murder, are not automatically restored by Amendment 4.

“I guess I was just too excited. I can vote now, great,” Foster said. “Then I found out when I got the letter from the Supervisor of Elections.”

Foster was allowed to register to vote and had already voted in the November 2020 election when he got a letter from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office saying it had received documentation from the state that indicates he has been convicted of a felony and his civil rights had not been restored.

“I felt bad after I found out it was wrong. I wouldn’t have even attempted to do it if I didn’t know it was right,” Foster said.

Foster told the officer it was his first time voting.

It was also Peter Washington’s first time voting.

“Like I said, this was my first time ever voting,” Washington told the agents. “So I’m trying to figure out what happened and where I went wrong.”

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles is speaking out after News 6 showed him our story about Peter Washington. Washington told News 6 he thought he was eligible to vote in the 2020 election but was recently arrested because of it.

Washington told FDLE after getting three jury summons in the mail, after being allowed to register to vote, and the state sending him a voter ID card, he thought his rights had been restored.

Washington’s wife asked an election worker to verify his status, according to Washington.

“She said, ‘Is he registered?’ The employee said, ‘yes.’ She looked on the computer, pulled up my name and everything and it came up,” Washington said.

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles later told News 6 his office was not notified by the state that Washington was ineligible to vote until December 2020.

The election, however, was in November and Washington had already voted.

Michelle Stribling indicated to officers she also thought her rights had been restored.

“Did you check that you’re a convicted felon?” an FDLE agent asked.

“I used to be one but I’m not one anymore,” Stribling said.

“You’re not a convicted felon?” the officer asked.

“No,” Stribling answered.

“Why not?” the officer asked.

“I was in prison. I did my time,” Stribling said.

“You’re still labeled as a convicted felon,” the officer said.

Stribling told officers she checked the box on her voting registration form that said she is not a convicted felon, or her rights have been restored because she wasn’t sure what it said.

“Do you remember reading that on the application?” the officer asked.

Stribling said she asked someone in the office to help her with the application, and according to her, the person said they were not allowed to.

“I can’t read that well,” Stribling said. “I can’t read and write that well.”

Stribling and Foster both have hearings scheduled for this month.

News 6 will continue to follow the cases.

See the probable cause affidavit filed in Michelle Stribling’s case:

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About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.