ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles is speaking out after News 6 showed him our story about Peter Washington, who was arrested following accusations of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Washington told News 6 he thought he was eligible to vote during that election.
“Why am I being accused of something that I didn’t deceitfully do?” Washington said.
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“It’s hard for them to find a database that can answer their question about whether their rights have been restored,” Cowles told News 6.
Washington served ten years in prison after violating probation on conviction for attempted sexual battery of a child and was released in 2010.
After Florida voters passed Amendment 4 in 2018, it automatically restored the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions after completing their sentences and paying court fees, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the arrests in a press conference, saying those arrested would “pay the price.” However, some of those arrested told News 6 they believed they were eligible to vote and were allowed to register.
“They sent me a voter registration card,” Washington said.
Because he was allowed to register to vote, Washington thought his rights had been restored, he said.
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“We showed them the ID. We showed them the voter card. We said, ‘Is this valid?’” Washington said. “...That’s the only reason that I walked in there and voted.”
Voter registrations are sent to the Florida Department of State, and it’s up to state officials to notify supervisors of elections whether someone is not eligible to vote, according to Cowles.
“Because we had not gotten anything, he was not flagged, so thus, he voted,” Cowles said.
Cowles’ office received Washington’s registration in May and forwarded it to the state, Cowles said.
It wasn’t until Dec. 21 after the November election that the state notified him that Washington was ineligible.
News 6 asked Cowles whether the timeline for notification is always that long
“You do have that rush of voter registrations right before a presidential election, as it was in November of 2020, and so I don’t know if it was just a lag time on their part because of the volume,” Cowles said.
Meanwhile, Washington is now facing criminal charges.
“This ain’t right,” Cowles said.
Washington has since bonded out of jail, though he is scheduled to face arraignment on Sept. 8.
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